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Patterson v. Worley

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

June 4, 2019

GERALDINE PATTERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
TAYLOR NICOLE WORLEY, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 February 2019.

          Appeal by plaintiff from judgment entered 5 June 2018 by Judge Phyllis M. Gorham in Wayne County Superior Court. No. 17 CVS 1263

          Everett, Womble & Lawrence, L.L.P., by Ronald T. Lawrence II and Kristy J. Jackson, for plaintiff-appellant.

          Simpson Law, PLLC, by Caroline P. Stutts, for defendant-appellee.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         Geraldine Patterson ("Plaintiff") appeals from the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Taylor Nicole Worley ("Defendant"). Because Plaintiff was unable to show through pleadings, depositions, or other evidence that Defendant owed her a duty recognized by North Carolina law, that her contributory negligence would not defeat her claim, or that the doctrine of last clear chance would apply, Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We therefore affirm the order of the trial court granting summary judgment to Defendant.

         Factual and Procedural Background

          On March 28, 2017 at approximately 6:11 p.m., Plaintiff, a pedestrian, left her apartment and began walking eastbound on Spence Avenue towards the Wal-Mart shopping center located in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Defendant was returning home from work, driving northbound in her Lexus sedan. It was a bright, clear, sunny day, and Defendant was traveling approximately thirty-five miles per hour on Spence Avenue in Goldsboro. Spence Avenue is a five-lane road, with two lanes on each side, a turn lane in the middle, and a paved median.

         As Plaintiff made her way towards Wal-Mart, she crossed the two southbound lanes of Spence Avenue, and then stopped at the paved median. A vehicle had entered the turning lane, but had come to a stop to allow Plaintiff to cross. In a northbound lane adjacent to the turning lane, a Ford Explorer had also come to a stop because of traffic backed up in its lane. Plaintiff stepped into the road in front of the Explorer and looked around the vehicle to see if the last lane of travel was clear. The Explorer driver blew its horn, and Plaintiff began running across the road. Plaintiff was then immediately hit by Defendant's car and injured.

         Plaintiff filed her complaint on August 3, 2017, alleging Defendant had been negligent in the operation of her vehicle when she hit Plaintiff on Spence Avenue. Defendant responded September 21, 2017, alleging, inter alia, the affirmative defense of contributory negligence. On January 31, 2018, Defendant moved for summary judgment. After a May 29, 2018 hearing, Defendant's motion for summary judgment was granted by the trial court in a June 5 order. It is from this order that Plaintiff timely appeals.

         Standard of Review

         On a motion for summary judgment, our standard of review of the trial court's ruling is well-established:

Under [the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure], Rule 56(a), summary judgment is properly entered if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that any party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In a motion for summary judgment, the evidence presented to the trial court must be admissible at trial, and must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. We review a trial court's order granting or denying summary judgment de novo. Under a de novo review, the court considers the matter anew and freely substitutes its own judgment for that of the lower tribunal. The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that there is no triable issue of material fact. This burden may be met by proving that an essential element of the opposing party's claim is nonexistent, or by showing through discovery that the opposing party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element of his claim or cannot surmount an affirmative defense which would bar the claim.
Once the party seeking summary judgment makes the required showing, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to produce a forecast of evidence demonstrating specific facts, as opposed to allegations, showing that he ...

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