Findings of fact and conclusions of law are necessary on decisions of any motion or order ex mero motu only when requested by a party and as provided by N.C. R. Civ. P. Rule 41(b). Thus, a trial court's compliance with the party's N.C. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(2) motion is mandatory. Once requested, the findings of fact and conclusions of law on a decision of a motion, as in a judgment after a non-jury trial, must be sufficiently detailed to allow meaningful review. N.C. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(1). The trial court's findings of fact are only conclusive on appeal when they are supported by competent evidence.
Plaintiff was injured when defendant came up behind her and tapped the back of her right knee with the front of his right knee, causing her knee to buckle. She fell and dislocated her kneecap, and sued for intentional assault and battery. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff and awarded damages. However, plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial alleging an inadequate verdict. Defendant, on the other hand, requested the court provided findings and conclusions regarding plaintiff's motion. The trial court granted plaintiff's motion for a new trial, and denied defendant's motion. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina.
Was the order granting a new trial proper?
The Court vacated the trial court's orders and remanded the matter for further findings regarding the new trial motion, holding that although the trial court made findings of fact in its order granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial, additional findings of fact were essential to provide the court with a basis for a meaningful review.