A Deadline is a Deadline
Today, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a case in favor of our client, a large healthcare provider. Scott Addison obtained the dismissal at the trial level and represented the client for the appeal.
The case arose from a patient’s fall in the emergency department that resulted in an injury. The patient blamed the accident on lack of attention from the nursing staff. After going through some discovery, the plaintiff dismissed her case (which she is permitted to do once under North Carolina law), and then she re-filed it.
The parties agreed to a consent order for the payment of costs in refiling the action, but the Plaintiff did not make the payment by the agreed upon deadline. The trial court then dismissed the case for failing to pay the costs on time, and the plaintiff appealed. She argued the clock that started the time to pay costs did not start until she was served a copy of the order, rather than when the order was entered. Unfortunately for her, the plain language of the order she agreed to stated that the time started from entry of the order.
On review, the Court of Appeals disagreed with Plaintiff’s arguments and found the clock started when the order was entered. The Court of Appeals explained the consent order was essentially a contract—plaintiff had contracted to pay the costs within a specific time frame or else have her lawsuit dismissed. Because she did not pay the costs in the agreed upon timeframe, her case had to be dismissed. So, the Court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Addison’s arguments and affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit.