Covenant Equipment Corp. v. Forklift Pro, Inc., 2008 NCBC 10 (N.C. Super. Ct. May 1, 2008)(Tennille)

Service of process can be made by leaving the Summons and Complaint at the Defendant's residence, even though not in literal compliance with Rule 4, if the Defendant has evaded service.

The Defendant will waive an objection to service (and to jurisdiction) by filing a Notice of Designation to the North Carolina Business Court, because "the filing of a Notice of Designation in an action constitutes a general appearance for the purpose of personal jurisdiction."  To keep such objections alive, the Notice of Designation must contain an objection to personal jurisdiction. 

On a covenant not to compete issue, the Court followed the principle it set out in Better Bus. Forms & Prods., Inc. v. Craver, 2007 NCBC 34 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 1, 2007) regarding the right of an asset purchaser to to enforce a non-compete entered into between the seller and an employee. The buyer has the option to enforce the noncompetition agreement or to enter into a new agreement. As the Court held: "a noncompetition agreement that has been sold as part of an asset sale, as opposed to the sale of a business, gives the buyer the right to enforce the noncompetition agreement as of the date of the sale but not to enforce the noncompetition agreement as if it had been entered into originally by the buyer."

Full Opinion

Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Ikerd v. Greenwood, 2008 NCBC 9 (N.C. Super. Ct. April 30, 2008)(Tennille)

A Notice of Designation must be actually filed in the county in which the case originated within thirty days of receipt of service of the Complaint in order to be timely, not just served within that time frame.

N.C. Gen. Stat.Sec. 7A-45.4(b) allows a defendant to designate an action as a complex business case "by filing a Notice of Designation in the Superior Court in which the action has been filed and simultaneously serving the notice" on opposing counsel, the Chief Judge of the Business Court, and the Chief Justice within thirty days after receipt of service of the Complaint.

"Filing" means actual filing within thirty days in the Court in the County in which the case was filed.  In counting the thirty days, a defendant does not get to count an additional three days if the Complaint was served by mail. 

Full Opinion

A Notice Of Designation To The Business Court Is A General Appearance For Jurisdictional Purposes

Covenant Equipment Corp. v. Forklift Pro, Inc., 2008 NCBC 10 (N.C. Super. Ct. May 1, 2008)(Tennille)

A service of process issue and a covenant not to compete issue in one decision from the Business Court.  It doesn't get any more exciting than this.  But, seriously, this is a significant procedural decision from the Court, please read on.  (As always, there is a link to the full opinion above).

On the service issue, the delivery of the Complaint to one of the Defendants, Carnie, had not been made in precise compliance with Rule 4 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.  The Sheriff had left the Summons and Complaint at Carnie's house in South Carolina, but had not delivered it personally to Carnie and had not left it with another person at the residence.  According to Carnie's Affidavit, the papers had been "left stuck in a crack between my doors" by a Deputy Sheriff with the last name of "Fudge."

The Court overruled the Motion to Dismiss for insufficiency of service of process because it found that Carnie had evaded service.  Looking at federal decisions, Judge Tennille ruled that leaving the Summons and Complaint at Carnie's residence was adequate service given Carnie's efforts to evade proper service.

But the groundbreaking part of the the decision on the service issue was the Court's ruling that Carnie had waived his objection to service because he had filed a Notice of Designation of the case to the North Carolina Business Court.  Judge Tennille held that "the filing of a Notice of Designation in an action constitutes a general appearance for the purpose of personal jurisdiction."  Thus, the objection to the sufficiency of service was waived.

The Court's decision goes beyond service of process.  Most significantly, if you are representing a Defendant planning to move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, you will waive that argument by filing a Notice of Designation to the Business Court.  To keep it alive, the Notice of Designation must contain an objection to personal jurisdiction.  Carnie's Notice did not.

In the non-compete portion of the opinion, the Court followed the principle it set out in Better Bus. Forms & Prods., Inc. v. Craver, 2007 NCBC 34 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 1, 2007) regarding the right of an asset purchaser to to enforce a non-compete entered into between the seller and an employee. The buyer has the option to enforce the noncompetition agreement or to enter into a new agreement. As the Court held: "a noncompetition agreement that has been sold as part of an asset sale, as opposed to the sale of a business, gives the buyer the right to enforce the noncompetition agreement as of the date of the sale but not to enforce the noncompetition agreement as if it had been entered into originally by the buyer."

Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

A Notice Of Designation To The Business Court Must Be Actually Filed Within Thirty Days Of Service Of The Complaint To Be Timely

Ikerd v. Greenwood, 2008 NCBC 9 (N.C. Super. Ct. April 30, 2008)(Tennille)

Yesterday, the Business Court provided more clarification on the requirements for making a timely designation of a case to the Business Court. 

It held that a Notice of Designation must be actually filed in the county in which the case originated within thirty days of receipt of service of the Complaint in order to be timely, not just served within that time frame.

One of the defendants in the Ikerd case had faxed his Notice of Designation to the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and to the Chief Judge of the Business Court less than thirty days after he had been served with the Complaint.  But he didn't file the Notice of Designation with the Clerk of Court of Catawba County until more than thirty days after he'd been served. 

Judge Tennille held that this was not a timely Notice of Designation under the terms of N.C. Gen. Stat.Sec. 7A-45.4(b), which allows a defendant to designate an action as a complex business case "by filing a Notice of Designation in the Superior Court in which the action has been filed and simultaneously serving the notice" on opposing counsel, the Chief Judge of the Business Court, and the Chief Justice within thirty days after receipt of service of the Complaint.

"Filing" means actual filing within thirty days in the Court in the County in which the case was filed.  And in counting the thirty days, the Court also held that a defendant doesn't get to count an additional three days if the Complaint was served by mail. 

The full procedure for designating a case to the North Carolina Business Court is described here