COA Holding Reverses Trial Court On Contributory Negligence Issue

April 27, 2022
Ann Groninger
Helen Baddour

NCAJ members Helen Baddour and Ann Groninger celebrated a win at the N.C. Court of Appeals last week with an unpublished decision in Klapp v. Buck, a case for a bicyclist. Baddour provided the summary below.

Bicyclist Julie Klapp was out for her regular morning bike ride. She had all the lighting required by law, kept a reasonable lookout and maintained control of her bicycle. Klapp was riding straight through a green light when she was hit by an oncoming car turning left. The defense alleged contributory negligence.

At trial, Baddour moved for a directed verdict on contributory negligence, relying on Daisy v. Yost, a 2016 North Carolina Court of Appeals opinion that was remarkably similar to her case. The trial judge seemed to agree with Baddour’s argument, but he decided to send the issue of contributory negligence to the jury anyway. The jury came back with a “yes, yes” verdict; the defendant was negligent, but Klapp was contributorily negligent. Attorneys for the plaintiff appealed.

On April 19, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant was required to show “more than a scintilla of evidence” of contributory negligence, and, in this case, the defendant did not meet that standard. The court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded for damages only. Baddour plans to file a motion requesting the publication of the unpublished opinion.

Baddour and Groninger practice with Johnson & Groninger PLLC in Charlotte. Baddour serves as co-chair for legislative affairs for the Auto Torts & Premises Liability Section.