Yesterday, the Business Court entered an important Order, titled "Order Regarding Notice of Designation and Assignment," in Southern Fastening Systems, Inc. v. Grabber Construction Products, Inc., 2014 NCBC 55.
The Order deals with the time limits for designating a case to the Business Court, and clears up the question of when and where a Notice of Designation needs to be filed. This question was not raised by either of the parties to the case. The Court said that it was the result of an inquiry "on its own motion whether the Notice of Designation was timely in accordance with recent statutory amendments regarding mandatory designation." Order at 1.
Section 7A-45.4(d) of the General Statutes says that a Notice of Designation "shall be filed . . . within 30 days of receipt of service of the pleading seeking relief from the defendant . . . ."
Grabber Construction Products, the Defendant, e-filed its Notice of Designation with the Business Court on November 3rd, which was within the thirty day period set by the statute. The Defendant mailed the Notice of Designation that same day to the Superior Court for Buncombe County, where the case had originated. The Notice of Designation then was filed in Buncombe County more than thirty days after service.
So, was the Designation timely? No, said the Court, although it accepted the Designation, stating that it was "recognizing the possible uncertainty in how the statute should be read until clarified by [its] Order."
The Court concluded its very short (about two pages) Order by stating that this largesse would not be extended going forward and that the Order was being published to:
provide notice to the practicing bar that the Court will in the future expect a Notice of Designation to be filed with the appropriate Clerk of Superior Court within the time provided by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-45.4, and that failure to do may result in the Notice of Designation being deemed untimely, defeating a right to mandatory designation.
Order at 2 (emphasis added). This isn’t the first time that the Business Court has dealt with the interplay between electronic filing and the need to file paper copies of filings in the Superior Court for the county in which the case originated. You probably remember the several cases in which the Business Court dismissed an appeal because the notice of appeal, although timely filed with the Business Court, wasn’t timely filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the case had originally been filed.