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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Failure To Give Notice To All Parties, Including Non-appealing Parties, Results In Dismissal Of Appeal

by Gary Beaver

North Carolina Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(a) requires an appellant to serve all other parties with a notice of appeal. In case anyone thinks that it is not mandatory, the NC Court of Appeals made it clear on May 18, 2010, in Lee v. Winget Road, LLC, that it is. There were originally eight plaintiffs and eight defendants in the lawsuit until plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed two of the defendants. Subsequently, the trial court granted summary judgment to the remaining defendants. Five of the Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal as to the remaining six defendants but, thereafter, withdrew the appeal as to one of the defendants. The appellants served the five remaining defendants but did not serve the three non-appealing plaintiffs or the two previously dismissed defendants.

Citing in support Dogwood Dev. & Mgmt. Co. LLC v. White Oak Transp. Co., 362 N.C. 191, 657 S.E.2d 361 (2008) and Hale v. Afro-American Int’l, 335 N.C. 231, 436 S.E.2d 588 (1993), the Lee court held that the failure to serve the notice of appeal on the three non-appealing plaintiffs or to obtain a waiver of service from them violated Rule 3(a) and that the violation was a “significant and fundamental” one and a “’gross violation’ of the [appellate] rules which ‘frustrates the adversarial process’” requiring dismissal of the appeal. The court did not reach the issue of whether failure to serve previously dismissed defendants was a similar egregious violation. Bottom line: follow the appellate rules to a “T” or run the risk of dismissal. [Note: the appellants’ brief was submitted by their counsel but not signed by him. I wonder what is up with that?]

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