Law School Case Brief
King v. Blanton - 223 N.C. App. 520, 735 S.E.2d 451 (2012)
The purpose of Rule 13(a), making certain counterclaims compulsory, is to enable one court to resolve 'all related claims in one action, thereby avoiding a wasteful multiplicity of litigation.'" Determining whether a particular claim "arises out of the same transaction or occurrence" requires consideration of "(1) whether the issues of fact and law are largely the same; (2) whether substantially the same evidence is involved in each action; and (3) whether there is a logical relationship between the two actions." In addition, there must be "a logical relationship in the nature of the actions and the remedies sought.
Sheila Denice Blanton (Blanton) filed a complaint on 14 July 2010 alleging that Ethel Myers King (King) ran a red light and struck Blanton's vehicle, damaging Blanton's vehicle and injuring Blanton. Blanton alleged that King was negligent, and that King's negligence "was the sole, direct and proximate cause of the accident, injuries and damages suffered by [Blanton] and her motor vehicle[.]"
King's insurance company, InsTrust Insurance Company (InsTrust), provided an attorney to defend King in the suit filed by Blanton. In May 2011, the parties reached an agreement, whereby Blanton agreed to voluntarily dismiss her claims with prejudice in exchange for a cash settlement. Blanton's action was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice on 3 May 2011. The record does not include any answer filed in response to Blanton's 14 July 2010 complaint, but Blanton and King agree that King did not file any counterclaim in response to Blanton's complaint.
King filed the present action on 30 June 2011. In her complaint, King alleged that it was Blanton who ran a red light and caused the 23 April 2010 collision, and that Blanton's negligence was the sole proximate cause of injury to King. Blanton filed an answer and motions to dismiss on 3 August 2011. Blanton alleged that King's action should have been filed as a compulsory counterclaim to Blanton's 14 July 2010 action and, therefore, King had lost her right to bring her negligence claim by failing to include it as a counterclaim to Blanton's 14 July 2010 action. The trial court heard Blanton's motions to dismiss on 19 September 2011. Because the trial court considered documents outside the pleadings, the trial court treated Blanton's motions to dismiss as motions for summary judgment, granted summary judgment in favor of Blanton, and dismissed King's action with prejudice. King appeals.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of Blanton?
The Court held that King's claim "arises out of the same transaction or occurrence[.]" The same collision is at the heart of both actions; the only dispute is where the fault for the collision lay. King's claim was, therefore, a compulsory counterclaim to Blanton's 14 July 2010 action. King had more than nine months between the time Blanton filed the 14 July 2010 action and the time of the settlement and voluntary dismissal of that action on 3 May 2011. King makes no argument, and the record includes nothing indicating that King was unaware of her right to file a counterclaim, or that she was not advised that she would forfeit her right to file a claim if she did not file the compulsory counterclaim. The Court held that, on these facts, King's failure to file her compulsory counterclaim constituted a waiver and estops her from bringing a new action for negligence based upon the same events that were at the heart of Blanton's 14 July 2010 action. King's argument is without merit.
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