Archive for December, 2022

N.C. Business Court Opinions, December 7, 2022–December 20, 2022

Futures Grp., Inc. v. Brosnan, 2022 NCBC 79 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 7, 2022) (Earp, J.)

Key Terms: 12(b)(6); motion to dismiss; breach of contract; promissory note

Plaintiff, a technology and consulting services company, borrowed $800,000.00 from Defendant in exchange for a convertible revolving promissory note. Defendant made additional loans to Plaintiff pursuant to the note, and the note’s principal eventually rose to $1,500,000.00. The parties subsequently modified the note to increase the maximum principal and convert $915,000 of the then-existing principal into shares of Plaintiff’s Class A Common Stock. This modification did not change the provision that the unpaid principal balance would be automatically converted to shares upon the maturity date. After a dispute arose regarding the stock issuance and debt owed under the note, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant. Defendant counterclaimed.

Plaintiff moved to dismiss Defendant’s first and second counterclaims based on the three-year statute of limitations applicable to contracts. Defendant’s first counterclaim requested a declaratory judgment holding that the debt under the note was automatically converted to stock and instructing Plaintiff to issue the stock accordingly. Defendant’s second counterclaim requested, in the alternative, monetary damages for Plaintiff’s breach of the note.

Plaintiff argued that Defendant knew, or should have known, of Plaintiff’s breach under the note upon the note’s maturity date of January 31, 2010. Defendant responded that the provision requiring the conversion of the debt to stock was self-executing, and he was not made aware of Plaintiff’s rejection of his ownership rights until December 2020. Defendant also argued that Plaintiff had acknowledged its debt under N.C. Gen. Stat. §1-26, and therefore revived it, within the three years preceding the filing of Defendant’s counterclaims. The Court rejected Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff’s communications met the statutory requirements for revival of the debt. However, the Court noted that a dismissal under 12(b)(6) would only be appropriate if Defendant’s allegations could only lead to a conclusion that Defendant knew or should have known of the breach more than three years before filing his counterclaims. Finding that Defendant had sufficiently pleaded that he did not know, nor should have known, that the debt conversion did not occur in 2010, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss to permit the record to develop more fully.


James H.Q. Davis Tr. v. JHD Props., LLC, 2022 NCBC 80 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 9, 2022) (Bledsoe, C.J.)

Key Terms: estate planning; trusts; judicial dissolution; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 57D-6-02; motion to dismiss

This lawsuit arose from disputes regarding the estate planning vehicles established by Dr. James H. Davis. Dr. Davis created two limited liability companies, JHD Properties, LLC and Berry Hill Properties LLC, and established a trust for each of his four sons. These four trusts are the only members of both LLCs, and each trust holds an equal 25% equity interest in each LLC. After a disagreement arose regarding the management of the LLCs and their sole asset (undeveloped property), two of the trusts (“Plaintiffs”) filed suit for judicial dissolution of the LLCs under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 57D-6-02(2)(i). A third trust (the “Charles Trust”) intervened and filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiffs: (1) failed to state the “business” of the LLCs in explicit terms in the complaint; and (2) failed to plead the requisite level of dysfunction required for dissolution.

The Court rejected the Charles Trust’s first argument at the outset, noting North Carolina’s “forgiving notice pleading standard in most instances.” Drawing all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs’ favor, the Court held that the stated business of the LLCs was to maximize the return of the LLCs’ only asset, the property. The Court also rejected the Charles Trust’s second argument, as the cases relied upon by the Charles Trust were decided under different procedural postures which permitted more evaluation of fact. The Court held that under the statute, the term “practicable” meant “feasible” not simply “possible.” Using this definition to determine the requisite pleading of “dysfunction” in the complaint, the Court held that Plaintiffs had sufficiently pleaded a claim for judicial dissolution and denied the Charles Trust’s motion to dismiss in full.


Brown v. Onslow Bay Marine Grp., LLC, 2022 NCBC 81 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 12, 2022) (Robinson, J.)

Key Terms: inspection demand; motion to compel; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 57D-3-04; summary judgment

Plaintiffs, minority members of Defendant, sent an inspection demand to Defendant pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 57D-3-04(a)(5) on the basis that Plaintiffs “ha[ve] concerns as to the current state of affairs” of Defendant. Defendant provided some, but not all, of the requested documents. Plaintiffs filed suit to compel Defendant to produce the remaining requested records.

Following discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiffs’ request was void for failure to comport with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 57D-3-04(e) since Plaintiffs asked for the records to be sent electronically or by mail rather than by inspection. Noting that Defendant had repeatedly produced documents by mail without objection for over five months, the Court concluded that Defendant had waived that objection.

Defendant also argued that it had fully fulfilled its obligations under the request and could not produce a specific document requested by Plaintiffs because it did not exist. The Court held that § 57D-3-04 did not create an independent cause of action for Plaintiffs to obtain a jury determination regarding whether a document exists and who possesses the document. As Defendant had filed sworn testimony stating that the document does not exist, the Court found no triable issue of fact to proceed. Finally, the Court held that the documents withheld by Defendant were outside the scope of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 57D-3-04, and Defendant was therefore not required to produce them. The Court granted Defendant summary judgment to the extent that it sought judgment that Defendant had fully complied with its obligations under the statute. The Court left the issue of costs to be determined at a later date.


JCG & Assocs., LLC v. Disaster Am. USA, LLC, 2022 NCBC 82 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 12, 2022) (Conrad, J.)

Key Terms: order to show cause; sanctions

Following a hearing to show cause, the Court issued this order imposing sanctions against Defendants for failure to comply with the Business Court Rules and various court orders. After filing an answer and counterclaims to Plaintiffs’ complaint, Defendants repeatedly failed to acknowledge or respond to communications from Plaintiffs and failed to follow the Court’s pretrial scheduling order. The corporate defendants additionally failed to appoint legal counsel and failed to comply with the Court’s two orders to do so. Defendants failed to file briefs in response to at least three motions and failed to comply with at least seven orders in the eighteen months preceding this opinion.

Finding that the Defendants had “not taken even the most basic steps necessary to participate in this case,” the Court determined that severe sanctions were warranted. Under its inherent authority, the Court struck Defendants’ answer and affirmative defenses, dismissed Defendants’ third-party claims, and entered default judgment against Defendants. The Court reserved the issue of damages for a later hearing.


Merrell v. Smith, 2022 NCBC 83 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 13, 2022) (Robinson, J.)

Key Terms: fiduciary duties; LLC; summary judgment

This Order addresses motions for summary judgment in four corresponding cases, all stemming from the alleged fraudulent scheme conducted by Richard C. Siskey, Mike Smith, and Jennifer Smith. The four Plaintiffs, all former members of Carolina Beverage Group, LLC (“CBB”), moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether Mike Smith owed Plaintiffs a fiduciary duty due to his majority ownership (fifty-two percent) in CBB. Plaintiffs allege that Mike Smith breached his fiduciary duty by providing Richard C. Siskey inside information regarding the interest of third-parties in buying CBB that was not provided to Plaintiffs, and allowing Plaintiffs to sell their units in CBB to Siskey without that knowledge.

The Court denied Plaintiffs’ motions, as they failed to demonstrate that Mike Smith owed them a fiduciary duty. The Court noted that the rights and duties of LLC members are governed by the LLC’s operating agreement. Absent an affirmative duty established under the operating agreement, the Plaintiffs were required to demonstrate that Mike Smith had possessed sufficient control of CBB to warrant the imposition of fiduciary duties.

The Court applied the four Vanguard factors to determine whether Mike Smith exercised sufficient control, which are: (1) control over the LLC’s board of directors; (2) the ability to dissolve the LLC; (3) the ability to put the LLC into bankruptcy and (4) the ability to amend the LLC’s operating agreement without approval from other members. In regard to the unit sales prior to 2007, the Court noted that the operating agreement explicitly precluded Mike Smith from taking certain actions without the approval of either 100% or 75% of the members, provided the members access to a broad category of records, and required 65% membership approval for a member to sell their ownership interest. Following the 2007 amendment to CBB’s operating agreement, Mike Smith had the unilateral power to amend the operating agreement, but the remaining language of the amendment indicated that he did not “effectively contro[l]” CBB. Noting that North Carolina’s courts have cautioned against the broad application of fiduciary duties, the Court concluded that Plaintiffs had failed to establish as a matter of law that Mike Smith owed Plaintiffs a fiduciary duty.


Talley v. Earth Fare 2020, Inc., 2022 NCBC Order 69 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 12, 2022) (Bledsoe, C.J.)

Key Terms: mandatory complex business case designation; objection; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-45.4(a)(2); securities

Plaintiff filed suit asserting claims arising from a dispute between Plaintiff and a former business partner regarding Plaintiff’s compensation and filed a notice of designation pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-45.4(a)(2) which encompasses disputes involving securities. Defendants objected to designation as a mandatory complex business case arguing that the securities at issue were tangential to Plaintiff’s claims, which sound in contract. The Court disagreed, finding that the claims asserted would require the Court to determine whether, and under what circumstances, Plaintiff was entitled to certain stock; thus, since the “acquisition, disposition, transfer, existence, or characteristics of the securities” were at issue, designation was proper under section 7A-45.4(a)(2).


Flexible Funding Liab. Co. v. Graham Cnty. Land Co., 2022 NCBC Order 70 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 16, 2022) (Conrad, J.)

Key Terms: receivership; public auction; disposition of proceeds; default judgment; writ of execution; gamesmanship

The receiver for Graham County Land Company (“GCLC”) filed an emergency motion for further direction regarding the disposition of auction proceeds from National Civil, LLC (“National”), a limited liability company in which GCLC held a majority membership. After GCLC went into receivership to wind up the company’s affairs, its receiver moved for an order authorizing him to hold a public auction of GCLC’s assets, including National’s property. The Court approved this motion, with the condition that the proceeds from the sale of National’s property be held in trust and disbursed only upon Court approval. The receiver conducted this auction.

Plaintiff and Volvo Financial Services (“Volvo”) subsequently moved for, and received, a default judgment against National in a separate proceeding. GCLC’s receiver reported that he and National’s minority member had agreed to dissolve the company and wind up its affairs. GCLC’s receiver was granted an order authorizing him to solicit creditor claims and distribute the proceeds from National’s assets accordingly. No parties filed an objection to the notice.

Volvo thereafter took steps to execute its judgment against National, including issuing a notice of levy on GCLC’s receiver. The Court ordered that GCLC’s receiver should disregard the Notice of Levy, as it interfered with the receiver’s duties and was procedurally defective. Noting Volvo’s gamesmanship throughout the receivership, the Court enjoined Volvo from any further interference with the receiver’s duties and ordered GCLC’s receiver to submit a proposed plan of distribution for the Court’s review.


Quad Graphics, Inc. v. N.C. Department of Revenue, 2022-NCSC-133 (Morgan, J.)

Key Terms: Commerce Clause; sales tax; use tax, interstate commerce; due process; substantial nexus

The N.C. Department of Revenue appealed from a decision of the Business Court, which concluded that the sale of goods produced out-of-state by Wisconsin-based Petitioner and shipped to its customers in North Carolina lacked a sufficient nexus to North Carolina for the imposition of state sales tax under the Commerce Clause in light of SCOTUS’s decision in McLeod v. J.E. Dilworth Co.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina began with an overview of Dilworth, which held that the Commerce Clause barred a state from imposing a sales tax on sales which were consummated out-of-state, even though the goods sold were delivered to customers within the taxing state. SCOTUS subsequently upheld this “free trade” philosophy in Freeman v. Hewit and Spector Motor Serv. v. O’Connor. However, in Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, SCOTUS expressly overruled Freeman and Spector and adopted a four-part test for determining the constitutionality of a state tax imposed on interstate commerce: to survive a Commerce Clause challenge, the tax must apply to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing state, be fairly apportioned, not discriminate against interstate commerce, and be fairly related to the services provided by the state.

The Court then turned to South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., in which SCOTUS overruled precedent which had incorporated a physical presence requirement into the substantial nexus prong of the Complete Auto test and held that South Dakota’s sales tax regime satisfied that prong. After the Wayfair decision, North Carolina, along with many other states, incorporated into its tax regime certain aspects of South Dakota’s law that SCOTUS had seemingly approved. The Court also noted that, even prior to Wayfair, many aspects of North Carolina’s and South Dakota’s tax regimes were already nearly identical because both were members in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement and thus used the same definitions and sourcing principles.

Therefore, under the Wayfair precedent, the Court applied the Complete Auto test to North Carolina’s sales tax regime to determine its constitutionality. First, the Court held that there was a substantial nexus because, during the relevant time period, Petitioner had employed a sales representative within North Carolina and processed approximately $20 million worth of orders for delivery in the state. Second, the fair apportionment prong was satisfied since due to the destination-based taxing and other safeguards that most states, including North Carolina, employed, the sales would not be subject to taxation by more than one state. Third, the Court held that the tax was nondiscriminatory because North Carolina imposes the same sales tax on all purchases made for delivery in North Carolina regardless of the origin of the goods or location of the seller. Fourth, the fair relation prong was met because the tax simply required interstate taxpayers to pay their “fair share” of ordinary public services that aided their in-state business activities. Finally, the Court held that the tax did not offend the Due Process Clause because Petitioner was substantially engaged in business in North Carolina and therefore had fair warning that its activities may be subject to North Carolina’s jurisdiction.

In conclusion, the Court held that Dilworth’s formalism doctrine had not survived subsequent SCOTUS decisions. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Business Court’s order and opinion and held that the sales tax at issue was constitutional under the Complete Auto test.

The dissent argued that Dilworth had not been overruled and that under its rule, the transactions at issue here had occurred outside of North Carolina and thus did not have the required transactional nexus with the state to satisfy the Commerce Clause.


By Natalie E. Kutcher and Ashley B. Oldfield

To subscribe to RCD’s Business Court Blast, email Ashley Oldfield at


The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.





Posted 12/21/22

N.C. Business Court Opinions, November 23, 2022 – December 6, 2022

Window World of Baton Rouge, LLC v. Window World, Inc.; Window World of St. Louis, Inc. v. Window World, Inc., 2022 NCBC 72 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 10, 2022) (Bledsoe, C.J.)

Key Terms: franchise; attorney-client privilege; crime-fraud exception; ex parte testimony; sanctions; adverse jury instructions; work-product doctrine

Plaintiffs, franchisees of Defendant Window World (“WW”), brought suit in 2015, alleging, inter alia, WW’s fraudulent concealment of information relating to its status as a franchise. In 2018, a discovery dispute arose regarding WW’s withholding of documents based on attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine. The Court entered an order addressing the discovery matters, which was appealed and subsequently affirmed. Thereafter, a number of issues arose from the implementation of the order resulting in the filing of the present motions.

The Court first addressed WW’s motion to allow the ex parte testimony of WW’s outside franchise attorney in further opposition to Plaintiffs’ crime-fraud motion. The Court denied the motion, concluding that WW had provided no persuasive reason it should be permitted to belatedly supplement the record contrary to BCR 7.5.

Next, the Court considered Plaintiffs’ renewed motion for disclosure of WW’s privileged communications based on the crime-fraud exception. Plaintiffs argued that WW’s newly produced documents, together with prior evidence, established by a preponderance of the evidence that WW and Vannoy (WW’s in-house counsel) knowingly perpetrated a fraud against Plaintiffs by inducing them to sign licensing agreements that falsely disclaimed a franchise relationship. The Court, however, declined to apply the crime-fraud exception because Plaintiffs did not produce any evidence that Vannoy was involved in soliciting Plaintiffs to enter into licensing agreements after the pertinent date.

Regarding Plaintiffs’ request for sanctions for alleged misrepresentations by WW and Vannoy, the Court denied the request as related to statements that WW was not aware it was a franchise system, but granted the request as related to Vannoy’s statements regarding franchise-related work she performed. The Court rejected Defendants’ attempt to distinguish legal advice from legal services and found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Vannoy had testified falsely on these matters. The Court awarded sanctions consisting of adverse jury instructions related to Vannoy and attorneys’ fees and costs related to the motions.

Lastly, the Court addressed Plaintiffs’ motion to compel which asked the Court to conduct an in camera review and compel the production of certain documents withheld or redacted by WW. Looking first at emails sent by Vannoy to gather information for WW’s franchise disclosure document, the Court determined that the communications were privileged because they were sent by Vannoy acting either as in-house counsel performing legal services or as a client preparing to meet with outside counsel. Turning to seven documents produced by WW’s outside counsel, the Court determined that five of the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege and the remaining two were protected by the work-product doctrine because they were prepared in anticipation of earlier potential litigation with state regulators and Plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate a substantial need for the documents. As for the remaining documents withheld, the Court concluded that they were all privileged, with the exception of two documents to the extent they were published to third-parties.


McFee v. Presley, 2022 NCBC 73 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 29, 2022) (Conrad, J.)

Key Terms: default judgment; Rule 55; N.C.G.S. § 1-75.11; fiduciary relationship; conversion; intangible interests; UDTPA; in or affecting commerce; fraudulent transfer; unjust enrichment; indirect benefit

Plaintiffs brought suit against several entities and individuals for their conduct relating to Plaintiff McFee’s employment with and membership interest in Defendant CPP. After the Court entered default against four of the six Defendants, Plaintiffs moved for default judgment. Noting first that the default judgment procedural requirements of Rule 55 and N.C.G.S. § 1-75.11 had been met, the Court turned to whether the allegations in the complaint, even though deemed admitted by entry of default, were sufficient to state a claim.

Regarding Plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud claims, the Court denied default judgment, concluding that the complaint did not allege the existence of a fiduciary relationship between McFee, as an employee and former member of CPP, and Defendant Stacks, as an officer of CPP.

The Court also denied default judgment as to Plaintiffs’ conversion claim, concluding that McFee’s intellectual property rights, membership interest, and expectancy interest in proceeds from the sale of CPP’s assets were all intangible interests not subject to a claim for conversion.

Default judgment on Plaintiffs’ UDTPA claim was denied as well because the alleged conduct related solely to internal disputes involving CPP, its officers, and McFee (an employee and minority owner) and thus was not in or affecting commerce.

As for Plaintiffs’ claim for fraudulent transfer under N.C.G.S. § 39-23.4, the Court granted default judgment against CPP based on allegations that McFee was a creditor of CPP, that CPP was on notice of McFee’s claim through her filing of previous lawsuits, that CPP transferred substantially all of its assets, that CPP concealed the transfers; and that the assets were transferred with fraudulent intent. However, default judgment was denied as to the remaining defaulting Defendants as there were no allegations that Plaintiffs were creditors of those parties.

Finally, the Court granted default judgment against all defaulting Defendants on the claim for unjust enrichment based on the direct and indirect benefits Defendants received by retaining McFee’s intellectual property and share of the proceeds from the sale of CPP’s assets.


Tribike Transp., LLC v. Essick, 2022 NCBC 74 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 30, 2022) (Conrad, J.)

Key Terms: misappropriation of trade secrets; breach of contract; promise; tortious interference; fraud; unjust enrichment; civil conspiracy; unfair competition

Plaintiff brought suit against two former employees, Essick and Cosgrove, and their new competing venture, for various claims arising from the alleged misappropriation of Plaintiff’s business plan and other confidential information. Defendants moved to dismiss all claims.

Regarding misappropriation of trade secrets, Defendants asserted that Plaintiff’s business plan was not protectable as a trade secret and that Plaintiff had not adequately alleged acts of misappropriation. The Court disagreed, concluding that Plaintiff’s allegations regarding the components of the business plan, that the business plan was confidential, unique to Plaintiff, and not readily ascertainable or able to be derived from public information, and acts of misappropriation “compare[d] favorably” with allegations found sufficient under Rule 12(b)(6) in other cases.

Regarding breach of contract and tortious interference claims as to Essick, Defendants acknowledged a valid contract but asserted that the allegations established that Essick could not have breached the contract. The Court rejected this argument, concluding that Plaintiff had met the minimal pleading requirements for breach.

As for the same claims regarding Cosgrove, Defendants argued that Cosgrove’s promise to keep the business plan a secret was not a valid contract because it lacked consideration. However, the Court held that the allegation that Plaintiff would provide Cosgrove with new confidential information in exchange for his promise was sufficient.

The Court also rejected Defendants’ challenge to the inducement and intent to deceive elements of Plaintiff’s fraud claim and to the in or affecting commerce element of Plaintiff’s unfair competition claims.

Regarding the unjust enrichment claim, the Court found that the allegation that Cosgrove fraudulently promised to keep the business plan confidential to gain access to new information was sufficient to state a claim.

Finally, the Court found that the civil conspiracy claim also survived as the complaint sufficiently alleged the identity of the conspirators, the timeframe of the conspiracy, and its purpose.


Campbell Sales Grp., Inc. v. Niroflex by Jiufeng Furniture, LLC, 2022 NCBC 75 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 5, 2022) (Davis, J.)

Key Terms: oral agreement; statute of frauds; specially manufactured goods exception; misappropriation of trade secrets; breach of confidence; unjust enrichment; measurable benefit; conversion; UDTPA; civil conspiracy; piercing the corporate veil; preliminary injunction

Plaintiff, a North Carolina furniture distributor, brought suit against Defendant Genfine, a furniture manufacturer, and related entities and individuals, alleging numerous claims arising from the breach of an alleged exclusivity agreement governing Plaintiff and Genfine’s course of dealing. Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims, including their counterclaims, and also requested that a previously granted preliminary injunction be dissolved.

The Court granted summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff’s claim that Genfine had breached an oral exclusivity agreement with Plaintiff. The Court concluded that none of the communications between the parties were sufficient to satisfy the statute of frauds. Plaintiff’s argument that the agreement was subject to the “specially manufactured goods” exception failed because the record showed that Genfine was willing and able to sell the furniture to other buyers. Moreover, Plaintiff’s argument was undercut by the fact that it had obtained a preliminary injunction to prevent Genfine from selling the furniture to others.

The Court also granted summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff’s claim for misappropriation of trade secrets because Plaintiff failed to show reasonable efforts to protect the secrecy of its information.

Next, the Court granted summary judgment for Defendants on Plaintiff’s breach of confidence claim as it failed to cite any case law recognizing such a claim and on Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim because the type of benefit upon which Plaintiff relied (the opportunity for new business relationships) was not a sufficiently measurable benefit.

The Court then denied summary judgment on Plaintiff’s conversion claim, which was based on Genfine’s failure to release furniture for which Plaintiff has paid, noting, however, that the claim may have been more appropriately brought as a breach of contract claim.

The Court also denied summary judgment on Plaintiff’s UDTP claim based on evidence of a number of allegedly deceptive statements and acts by Defendants. Plaintiff’s civil conspiracy claim also survived in conjunction with the UDTP claim.

The Court, however, rejected Plaintiff’s request to pierce the corporate veil of Defendant Niroflex because Plaintiff failed to provide evidence rebutting testimony that Niroflex was not controlled by Genfine.

Lastly, the Court granted summary judgment in Genfine’s favor on its own breach of contract claim, which was based on Plaintiff’s failure to pay for goods shipped to it. Plaintiff’s argument that the goods were non-conforming based on violation of the alleged exclusivity agreement failed since the Court had already ruled that no enforceable exclusivity agreement existed.

Turning to the motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction, the Court first noted that the injunction had been based on a likelihood of success on Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim which has now been dismissed. Even assuming Plaintiff could show a likelihood of success on any remaining claims, it failed to show that dissolving the injunction would cause irreparable harm. Thus, the Court granted the motion to dissolve the injunction but deferred ruling on Genfine’s request that the $100,000 bond posted by Plaintiff be forfeited to Genfine.


Howard v. IOMAXIS, LLC, 2022 NCBC 76 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 5, 2022) (Earp, J.)

Key Terms: operating agreement; membership interest; economic interest; buy-sell; equitable accounting; specific performance; declaratory judgment

This case arose following the death of Ronald Howard, who owned a 51% interest in IOMAXIS, LLC. His interest was passed to his Estate and then to a Trust. Following disputes regarding the rights of the Trust with respect to its interest in IOMAXIS, the co-trustees brought suit seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment and an accounting.

In response, IOMAXIS argued that any attempt by the Estate to transfer its economic interest to the Trust failed because it did not comply with the company’s operating agreement, and, therefore, the Trust did not have standing to bring the action. The Trust responded that it had clearly identified an interest in IOMAXIS which was assigned to it and that allegations regarding the method of transfer were unnecessary. Acknowledging that the complaint did not explain how the transfer occurred, the Court nonetheless considered the three possible avenues for transfer and concluded that under any one of them, the Trust would become a transferee of an interest in IOMAXIS and thus had standing.

IOMAXIS also sought an order precluding the remedy of specific performance of the buy-sell provisions of the operating agreement. However, because the terms of the operating agreement were ambiguous, the Court determined that it could not rule out, at this stage, an interpretation of the agreement that would support specific performance.

In addition, IOMAXIS sought dismissal of the Trust’s demand for an accounting, arguing that the Trust had not asserted an underlying claim to support an accounting or that it lacked an adequate remedy at law. The Court disagreed and denied the motion, except to the extent the accounting demand was made on the part of the Estate, which was not a party to the action.

Lastly, the Court clarified that the individual defendants were only named as to the first three claims because of the statutory requirement that any person with an interest that would be affected by a declaratory judgment must be made a party to the declaratory judgment action.


Brakebush Bros., Inc. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds of London, 2022 NCBC 77 (N.C Super. Ct. Dec. 5, 2022) (Davis, J.)

Key Terms: insurance claim; statutory fraud; N.C.G.S. § 58-44-16(f)(2); heightened pleading requirements; motion to strike

In this suit, Plaintiffs Brakebush and Raeford sued a number of insurance companies over the amount of Brakebush’s insurance claims following a fire at a chicken plant. The insurance companies counterclaimed, seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that the insurance policies were void due to Brakebush’s violation of N.C.G.S. § 58-44-16(f)(2) by fraudulently submitting a claim for insurance proceeds for amounts well beyond the actual damage to the plant. Plaintiffs moved to dismiss the counterclaims under Rule 12(b)(6) and to strike Defendants’ fraud-related affirmative defenses.

The Court began by noting that while a common law fraud claim has additional elements, a claim for statutory fraud under N.C.G.S. § 58-44-16(f)(2) only requires three: 1) a false statement; 2) that was knowingly and willfully made; and 3) that was material. Finding these elements sufficiently pleaded, the Court turned to Brakebush’s argument that the claim was also subject to the heightened pleading requirements of N.C. R. Civ. P. 9(b). However, the Court did not decide the issue, because it found that the counterclaims were pleaded with sufficient particularity even if Rule 9(b) applied. Accordingly, the Court denied the motion to dismiss the declaratory judgment claim.

Because Brakebush’s motion to dismiss the other counterclaims and motion to strike hinged on dismissal of the declaratory judgment claim, the Court denied these motions as well.


McClure v. Ghost Town in the Sky, LLC, 2022 NCBC 78 (N.C. Super. Ct. Dec. 5, 2022) (Conrad, J.)

Key Terms: operating agreement; membership interest; economic interest

Defendants are two limited liability companies whose original members were Alaska Presley and Coastal Development, LLC. Both LLCs have similar operating agreements which provide that upon Presley’s death all of her membership interest would pass to Plaintiff. Other provisions of the operating agreement provided for transfers more generally. Following Presley’s death, Plaintiff sought to assert her membership rights by requesting books, records, and other financial information. After these requests were denied by Coastal Development, Plaintiff brought suit to dissolve the LLCs and wind up their affairs. Defendants moved to dismiss, asserting that, pursuant to the terms of the operating agreement, Plaintiff had only an economic interest, not membership rights and, therefore, could not seek dissolution.

The Court disagreed, noting that the operating agreements unambiguously provided that Plaintiff would succeed to all of Presley’s membership interest upon Presley’s death. The other provisions governing transfers which required member consent were irrelevant to the facts at hand since they specifically stated that they were subject to the aforementioned terms. Accordingly, the Court concluded that Plaintiff was a member of the two LLCs and denied the motion to dismiss


Nerko, L.L.C. v. Blue Bridge Benefits LLC, 2022 NCBC Order 66 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 28, 2022) (Robinson, J.)

Key Terms: receivership; proof of claim; Bankruptcy Code; burden of proof

The Court had previously appointed a receiver for Defendant Blue Bridge Benefits LLC (“BBB”) and entered an order establishing a claims process which required creditors asserting claims against BBB to submit a proof of claim form to the receiver. Thereafter, the receiver investigated the claims asserted, including one for $69,000, and notified the parties of his intent to pay the $69,000 claim. Plaintiff Nerko, L.L.C. objected.

Noting that the N.C. Commercial Receivership Act establishes the process for objections and allowances of claims in a receivership but does not provide a framework for the presentation of evidence and burden of proof, the Court turned to the Bankruptcy Code for guidance and adopted the burden-shifting framework set forth in 11 U.S.C. § 502 and Bankruptcy Rule 9017. Applying this framework, the Court overruled and denied Nerko’s objection, concluding that Nerko had failed to satisfy its burden of proof necessary to overcome the presumption of validity of the claim where, as here, the claim was properly filed and found to be valid by the receiver.


JaniSource LLC v. ChannelAdvisor Corp., 2022 NCBC Order 67 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 30, 2022) (Bledsoe, C.J.)

Key Terms: notice of designation; contemporaneous filing; N.C.G.S. § 7A-45.4(d)(1); order on designation

Plaintiffs did not file a notice of designation until over a month after filing their complaint. Accordingly, the Court determined that the action was not properly designated as a mandatory complex business case because the notice was not filed contemporaneously with the complaint as required by N.C.G.S. § 7A-45.4(d)(1). The order was without prejudice to the right of any other party to seek designation as appropriate.


Shenzhen Ruobilin Network Tech. Co. v. ChannelAdvisor Corp., 2022 NCBC Order 68 (N.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 30, 2022) (Bledsoe, C.J.)

Key Terms: notice of designation; contemporaneous filing; N.C.G.S. § 7A-45.4(d)(1); order on designation

Plaintiffs did not file a notice of designation until over a month after filing their complaint. Accordingly, the Court determined that the action was not properly designated as a mandatory complex business case because the notice was not filed contemporaneously with the complaint as required by N.C.G.S. § 7A-45.4(d)(1). The order was without prejudice to the right of any other party to seek designation as appropriate.


By Ashley B. Oldfield


The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

To subscribe to RCD’s Business Court Blast, email Ashley Oldfield at


Posted 12/07/22