Marcellino & Tyson Attorney Clay Campbell prevailed in the North Carolina Court of Appeals on behalf of our client, N.C. Farm Bureau, in BUCHANAN v. N.C. FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INC.
The Plaintiff, an insured of NC Farm Bureau, appealed from various orders granting partial summary judgment and directed verdict on the remaining claim against him in Mitchell County Superior Court. The Court of Appeals affirmed those orders.
Plaintiff’s home was insured by NC Farm Bureau and suffered a fire. After disagreements over the cost of repairs to the home and the value of the contents, the Plaintiff sued NC Farm Bureau alleging claims of Breach of Contract and Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices. NC Farm Bureau moved to stay the suit and compel appraisal pursuant to the homeowner’s insurance policy, which the trial court granted. Plaintiff retained an appraiser and participated in the appraisal but refused to accept the appraisal as binding.
NC Farm Bureau moved for summary judgment and to have the trial court confirm the appraisal award. The trial court entered summary judgment against Plaintiff on the unfair and deceptive trade practices claim but allowed the breach of contract to proceed to trial. At trial, Plaintiff attempted to offer expert testimony from experts that did not participate in the appraisal process, but NC Farm Bureau opposed this and the trial court did not allow the testimony. At the close of Plaintiff’s case, Mr. Campbell moved for directed verdict, which the trial court granted. Plaintiff then appealed the orders entering partial summary judgment, directed verdict, and limiting the testimony of the new expert, among other orders.
The Court of Appeals rejected all of Plaintiff’s grounds for appeal. Following its prior Patel case, the Court concluded that the appraisal process was required by the insurance policy before the Plaintiff could file suit against NC Farm Bureau. The Court also agreed with NC Farm Bureau and the trial court that NC Farm Bureau had not engaged in any unfair or deceptive trade practices in handling Plaintiff’s claim. NC Farm Bureau performed its duties and properly exercised it appraisal rights under the Policy.
The Court also ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting NC Farm Bureau’s motion in limine to exclude Plaintiff’s proffered expert witness. The proposed evidence did not and could not relate to the remaining issue of breach of contract at trial. Finally, the Court of Appeals agreed with NC Farm Bureau that the trial court did not err in directing verdict against the Plaintiff on the breach of contract claim given that NC Farm Bureau had complied with its obligations under the policy throughout the process.
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