Hinson v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., August 23, 2001 (Tennille)(unpublished)

This was a dispute between insurance agents and an insurer for which they had sold policies.

Plaintiff asserted that the Court had personal jurisdiction over a parent company with an indirect subsidiary in North Carolina based on the alter ego doctrine.  The Court held that "if [the parent] has dominated and controlled. . . a second tier subsidiary doing business in North Carolina, to the extent that the corporate veil may be pierced, such action would justify assertion of jurisdiction over the parent."  Although the Court found the allegations of dominance to be somewhat vague and ambiguous, it found that there were questions of fact whether the corporate veil could be pierced, and denied the motion, suggesting that it be renewed at a later date.  The Court observed that "it will not be sufficient for plaintiffs to establish only a parent-subsidiary relationship and some involvement in the subsidiary’s business by the parent. The burden will be much heavier."

The Court dismissed, based on lack of personal jurisdiction, claims against several officers of one of the corporate defenants.  It held "plaintiffs may not assert jurisdictionover a corporate agent without some affirmative act committed in his individual official capacity," which the Court found to be lacking.  The Court found that it did have jurisdiction over one of the officers, who had been alleged to have made misrepresentations to the Plaintiffs while at a meeting in North Carolina. 

Also dismissed was a negligence claim, because the Court found that duties of the parties to be defined by their contract.  The Court noted the narrow circumstances under which North Carolina recognizes a claim for negligent breach of contract, and held that allowing such a claim would "open this particular tort to all parties to a contract."

Claims for tortious interference with contract were also dismissed, because Defendant's conduct in notifying insurance policyholders that Defendant would be exiting the insurance business and that they should find new insurance had a legitimate business purpose. 

The Court found insufficient aggravating circumstances to make out an unfair and deceptive practices claim, and dismissed that claim as well.

Full Opinion

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