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Gunter v. Maher

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 19, 2019

ROWU CORTEZ GUNTER, BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM GABRIEL ZELLER AND ROWU GUNTER, PERSONALLY, Plaintiffs,
v.
DAVID SEAN MAHER AND LARISSA MAHER, Defendants.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 14 February 2019.

          Appeal by plaintiffs from order entered 4 January 2018 by Judge Eric C. Morgan in Forsyth County Superior Court No. 17 CVS 4256.

          Schwaba Law Firm, PLLC, by Andrew J. Schwaba and Zachary D. Walton, for plaintiff-appellants.

          Teague, Rotenstreich, Stanaland, Fox & Holt, PLLC, by Kara V. Bordman and Steven B. Fox, for defendant-appellees.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         Rowu Cortez Gunter, by and through his guardian ad litem, and his father, Rowu Gunter, ("Plaintiffs") appeal from an interlocutory order that compels the disclosure of the date on which they first contacted their attorney before the commencement of this litigation. Plaintiffs argue that this date being sought through pre-trial discovery is protected by attorney-client privilege, and they cannot, therefore, be compelled to disclose it. We disagree.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On June 23, 2015, Plaintiffs were driving west on Waughtown Street in Winston Salem, North Carolina at that same time that David and Larissa Maher ("Defendants") were driving east on Waughtown Street. Defendants began a left-hand turn into a private driveway and collided with Plaintiffs' vehicle.

         As a result of this collision, Plaintiffs filed a complaint on July 12, 2017 against Defendants asserting negligence claims and seeking damages for their injuries. Defendants answered the complaint and also served their first set of interrogatories on Plaintiffs on September 20, 2017. In this set of interrogatories, number 24 asked that Plaintiffs "[s]tate the date when you first contacted an attorney after the accident referenced in the complaint. Please note that this request is being made pursuant to the case of Blackmon v. Bumgardner, 135 N.C.App. 125 (1999)." Plaintiffs responded to Defendants' interrogatories on October 31, 2017 but objected to number 24 on attorney-client privilege grounds.

         Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on November 13, 2017, and Defendants filed their amended answer on November 14, 2017. Defendants then filed a motion to compel on November 20, 2017 asking the trial court to order Plaintiffs to fully respond to their discovery requests. Plaintiffs responded to Defendant's motion on December 14, 2017.

         The trial court granted Defendants' motion to compel in an order filed January 4, 2018 that required Plaintiffs to "provide the date when Plaintiff first contacted an attorney after the accident referenced in the complaint within 20 days of the entry of this order." On January 23, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their notice of appeal of the order to compel. On January 31, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a motion to stay the case with the trial court pending the outcome of this appeal. The trial court granted the stay on February 26, 2018.

         Analysis

         I. Interl ...


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