Accountant Who Prepared Financial Statements Didn't Need To Be Designated As An Expert Witness In Order To Testify

An accountant who had prepared financial statements did not need to be designated as an expert witness in order to provide testimony regarding those financial statements, per the Business Court's ruling in A-1 Pavement Marking, LLC v. APMI Corporation, 2009 NCBC 15 (N.C. Super. Ct. June 26, 2009).  The opinion also discusses generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP") relevant to financial statements of consolidated entities.

The issue in A-1 was Plaintiff's calculation of a bonus due one of the Defendants, which was to be based on Plaintiff's gross profits. The Plaintiff's consolidated financial statements had eliminated a significant receivable due from a subsidiary. The Defendant asserted that his bonus would have been substantially higher with the inclusion of that receivable in the gross profit calculation, and brought a claim under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act.

The Plaintiff moved for summary judgment, relying on an affidavit from the accountant who had prepared the financial statements on which the calculation was based.  The Defendant objected to what it termed "improper opinion testimony," and argued that the accountant had never been designated as an expert witness.

Judge Diaz rejected the argument that the accountant was an undisclosed expert who shouldn't be allowed to testify, holding:  

The record shows that Plaintiff’s accountant personally prepared the relevant financial statements and arrived at the $5,000.00 bonus amount that A-1 paid Blount. As a result, Plaintiff’s accountant is not an expert witness, but is instead a fact witness, albeit one with specialized knowledge in accounting. Cf. Turner v. Duke University, 325 N.C. 152, 168, 381 S.E.2d 706, 716 (1989) (“Where a doctor is or was the [patient’s] treating physician and is called to testify not about the standard of the [patient’s] care but rather about the [patient’s] treatment and the doctor’s choice of surgical procedures, he is not an expert witness.”).

The Court furthermore didn't accept the argument that the consolidated financial statements had improperly excluded the intercompany receivable:

the accounting methodology used by Plaintiff's accountant to generate the consolidated financial statements . . . is entirely consistent with GAAP.  When a parent company prepares consolidated financial statements, GAAP requires the parent to eliminate certain transactions among the parent and its affiliates, including accounts receivable, to avoid counting revenue twice and to accurately portray the operating results of affiliated companies as a single economic unit. 

Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment was granted. 

There have been two other opinions from the Business Court in the A-1 case, one involving a claim for reformation of the asset purchase agreement at issue in the case; and the other denying a request for a preliminary injunction involving title to a motor vehicle.

Brief in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

Brief in Opposition to Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

Reply Brief in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

The photo at the top is from roboppy's photostream on Flickr.

Court Of Appeals Rules That NC Wage And Hour Act Has No Application Outside North Carolina

The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act does not apply to out-of-state employees working for North Carolina companies even if their employment agreements provides that the law of North Carolina applies, per the ruling of the North Carolina Court of Appeals today in Sawyer v. Market America, Inc.

Sawyer, a resident of Oregon, worked for Market America, a North Carolina based company, under an independent contractor agreement.  All of Sawyer's work was done outside of North Carolina.

The Agreement between Sawyer and Market America provided that it should be "governed and construed under the laws of the State of North Carolina." 

When Sawyer sued, he made claims under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act.  He argued that since the parties had agreed to the application of North Carolina law, there was no reason for the Court to reach the issue whether the Act has extraterritorial effect.

The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, relying on venerable North Carolina Supreme Court precedent that "every statute is confined in its operation to the persons, property, rights, or contracts, which are within the territorial jurisdiction of the legislature which enacted it. The presumption is always against any intention to attempt giving to the act an extraterritorial operation and effect.”

The conclusion of the Court of Appeals was that summary judgment had been properly entered by the trial court, because "the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act does not apply to the wage payment claims of a nonresident who neither lives nor works in North Carolina." 

Warren v. Eli Research, Inc., April 28, 2008 (Diaz)(unpublished)

Motion to Dismiss granted where there were "patent inconsistencies" in the Complaint in Plaintiff's claims of fraudulent inducement regarding an employment agreement. 

The Court held "it is patently inconsistent for [one of the Plaintiffs] Hittle to allege, on the one hand, that Defendant never intended to pay the wages promised, and on the other, that Defendant in fact performed in part and that it failed to complete performance for reasons unrelated to its intent."  The Court held that partial performance of a contract demonstrates a party's intention to fulfill the promise at the time it was made, undermining Hittle's claim on its face.

The fraudulent inducement claim of another Plaintiff (Warren), was allowed to go forward, however.  Warren's claim was that he had been promised substantial severance pay if he was terminated for reasons other than those specified in his written employment agreement.  Although Warren, like Hittle, had begun employment, the Court found that "the fact that Defendant employed Warren for a period of time before terminating him for financial reasons does not negate Warren’s allegation that Defendant never intended (at the time it made the promise) to pay Warren severance upon his discharge."

The Court denied the Motions to Dismiss the Wage and Hour Act claims made by both Warren and Hittle.  According to her allegations, Hittle was entitled to a guaranteed payment of one year of compensation at the time she began employment, and the Court held that she therefore stated a claim for recovery of wages under the Act.  Warren had a claim under the Act because severance pay is included in the definition of wages.

Full Opinion

Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Fraud In The Inducement Claim Dismissed Due To "Patent Inconsistency" In Complaint

Warren v. Eli Research, Inc., April 28, 2008 (Diaz)(unpublished)

Inconsistent allegations in the Complaint doomed the claim for fraudulent inducement by one of the Plaintiffs in this case. 

That Plaintiff, Hittle, alleged that the Defendant had promised her an annual salary of $150,000, guaranteed for 12 months, but that it had no intention of fulfilling this promise when made.  The Defendant booted Hittle only a few months after she began employment.

What led to the granting of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss were Hittle's allegations in the Complaint that she had begun her employment, worked for three months, been paid for that work, and that she was terminated for "financial reasons."

The Court held "it is patently inconsistent for Hittle to allege, on the one hand, that Defendant never intended to pay the wages promised, and on the other, that Defendant in fact performed in part and that it failed to complete performance for reasons unrelated to its intent."  The Court held that partial performance of a contract demonstrates a party's intention to fulfill the promise at the time it was made, undermining Hittle's claim on its face.

The fraudulent inducement claim of another Plaintiff (Warren), was allowed to go forward, however.  Warren's claim was that he had been promised substantial severance pay if he was terminated for reasons other than those specified in his written employment agreement.  Although Warren, like Hittle, had begun employment, the Court found that "the fact that Defendant employed Warren for a period of time before terminating him for financial reasons does not negate Warren’s allegation that Defendant never intended (at the time it made the promise) to pay Warren severance upon his discharge."

The Court denied the Motions to Dismiss the Wage and Hour Act claims made by both Warren and Hittle.  According to her allegations, Hittle was entitled to a guaranteed payment of one year of compensation at the time she began employment, and the Court held that she therefore stated a claim for recovery of wages under the Act.  Warren had a claim under the Act because severance pay is included in the definition of wages.

Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss