Can I Appeal a Judgment or Ruling?

North Carolina Appellate Attorneys Can Review Your Case and File an Appeal

Riddle & Brantley are your appeal lawyers; we get results

Depending upon the circumstances of your case, you may appeal decisions made by the courts or judges. These decisions may pertain to a wrongful death or personal injury claim as well as workers compensation cases. Still, legal issues or rulings which you and your attorney may appeal are limited. We cannot appeal findings, awards or verdicts rendered by juries simply because they are unfavorable. However, we can appeal flawed and erroneous rulings made by the judge that supported the foundation for the jury’s final decision. Thus, to file an appeal, you and your appellate lawyer must determine whether the judge erred in a ruling that affected the eventual outcome of the case. If so, then you can appeal that decision, which could potentially allow you a new trial to change the jury’s decision in your favor.

Whether to appeal or not is a decision that requires much deliberation, especially since the process can be long and expensive. Typically, there are no appeals of judicial rulings and final conclusions. However, there are times when appeals are necessary, especially when the rule of law is unclear or the court clearly erred, as determined by one of the lawyers handling or reviewing the rulings and legal issues involved in the trial or hearing. At the law offices of Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our North Carolina appellate attorneys have experience appealing many different types of claims. Each appeal is different, depending on the incorrect ruling and the facts of your case. Below, our attorneys explain several examples of successful appeals handled by our law firm.

Our Attorneys Appealed a Wrongful Death Claim vs Workers Compensation Decision

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Our North Carolina appellate attorneys handled a case involving a fireworks explosion on the coast which killed four individuals and severely injured another. The fireworks company hired the victims to handle the fireworks show on Ocracoke Island for the Fourth of July in 2009.

Tragically, the crew received instructions to begin assembling the fireworks inside the large truck which transported the explosives. Some of the fireworks ignited and caused the entire truck to explode.

Riddle & Brantley, LLP filed suit on behalf of the family of Charles Kirkland, who was killed in that explosion. This was The Estate of Charles Kirkland v. East Coast Pyrotechnics, Inc., formerly known as Melrose South Pyrotechnics, Inc. No. COA13-620 (2014).

The fireworks company, Melrose, asserted that Kirkland and the other workers were employees of the company. By this logic, his wrongful death claim would be limited to workers compensation. These wrongful death benefits would have been minimal for the family. Using this argument, Melrose filed a motion for the trial court to dismiss the case.

However, we argued that Kirkland was not an employee and, even if he was an employee, the fireworks company was liable to the family for his death because the negligent conduct of the company (by placing the employees in the back of the enclosed truck) was the equivalent of intentionally trying to injure or kill him.

The trial court denied Melrose’s motion. Melrose appealed this ruling to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. After a few reviews, the appellate court determined that the issue of Kirkland’s employment status and Melrose’s liability for his wrongful death was a factual issue for the jury to determine. Shortly thereafter, the matter settled, just a few weeks before trial. All parties agreed that the terms of the settlement would remain confidential. Three other parties also filed suit for this explosion, but we did not represent those parties.

Note that this case took five years to resolve, which is typical in appeals.  Gene Riddle was the primary attorney on this case. He also conducted depositions and handled the many motions involved in the case.

Our Attorneys Appealed a Wrongful Death Claim vs Workers Compensation Decision

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Our North Carolina appellate attorneys handled a case involving a fireworks explosion on the coast which killed four individuals and severely injured another. The fireworks company hired the victims to handle the fireworks show on Ocracoke Island for the Fourth of July in 2009.

Tragically, the crew received instructions to begin assembling the fireworks inside the large truck which transported the explosives. Some of the fireworks ignited and caused the entire truck to explode.

Riddle & Brantley, LLP filed suit on behalf of the family of Charles Kirkland, who was killed in that explosion. This was The Estate of Charles Kirkland v. East Coast Pyrotechnics, Inc., formerly known as Melrose South Pyrotechnics, Inc. No. COA13-620 (2014).

The fireworks company, Melrose, asserted that Kirkland and the other workers were employees of the company. By this logic, his wrongful death claim would be limited to workers compensation. These wrongful death benefits would have been minimal for the family. Using this argument, Melrose filed a motion for the trial court to dismiss the case.

However, we argued that Kirkland was not an employee and, even if he was an employee, the fireworks company was liable to the family for his death because the negligent conduct of the company (by placing the employees in the back of the enclosed truck) was the equivalent of intentionally trying to injure or kill him.

The trial court denied Melrose’s motion. Melrose appealed this ruling to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. After a few reviews, the appellate court determined that the issue of Kirkland’s employment status and Melrose’s liability for his wrongful death was a factual issue for the jury to determine. Shortly thereafter, the matter settled, just a few weeks before trial. All parties agreed that the terms of the settlement would remain confidential. Three other parties also filed suit for this explosion, but we did not represent those parties.

Note that this case took five years to resolve, which is typical in appeals.  Gene Riddle was the primary attorney on this case. He also conducted depositions and handled the many motions involved in the case.

Workers Compensation Appeal for Wrongful Death Benefits

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Another matter that we handled involved the appeal of a ruling by the Deputy Commissioner in a workers compensation case. This tragic case—Goodrich v. RL Resser, Inc. NO. COA 02-1584, 588 S.E.2d 511 (2003)—involved a man whose wrongful death resulted from an explosion at work. The issue for determination concerned who would be the beneficiaries of the workers comp death benefits. Mr. Goodrich was married at the time and had three step children. However, he had filed for divorce prior to his death. Furthermore, at the time of his death, his wife was accused of living in an adulterous relationship.

As a result, the parents of the deceased believed that they should receive the death benefits instead of the wife and/or stepchildren. We represented Mrs. Goodrich, the wife, and we argued that she was still dependent on the victim for support, since she was not divorced from him at the time of his death.

Initially, the Deputy Commissioner ruled against us and awarded benefits to the parents. We appealed to the Full Commission. Again, the Full Commission ruled against us. However, the three stepchildren did receive benefits, as they were wholly and substantially dependent on the victim for support. We appealed to the Court of Appeals, which agreed with our position and determined that our client was wholly and substantially dependent on Mr. Goodrich at the time of his death.

During the actual trial of this case, we were successful in providing evidence in the form of numerous documents, including checks and tax records, to support the conclusion that our client was still dependent on her husband despite their separation. This evidence was very helpful in persuading the Court of Appeals to ultimately rule in our favor. This case, like most appeals, took several years to conclude. Again, Gene Riddle was the primary attorney on this case and successfully argued this case in front of the Appellate Judges.

Case Appealed to Undo a Previous Settlement Agreement

In another case—Acton v. Lowe’s, NO. COA07-1436 (2008)—we represented a workers compensation appeal, though we did not handle the original claim. This case is of particular importance as we were attempting to set aside a previous settlement agreement entered into by our client.

Our client injured his back when he fell off a ladder while working for Lowes. He initially hired another attorney unaffiliated with our firm. This attorney filed for a workers compensation hearing to determine benefits but then agreed to mediate the case. His attorney settled his case for $40,000 at mediation. However, our client later refused to sign the agreement. At that point he hired the appellate attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, LLP.

We took over the case. The Deputy Commissioner ruled after a hearing that our client had settled for $40,000 pursuant to the agreement at mediation which was fair and enforceable. We disagreed so we appealed to the Full Commission but lost. Then we appealed to the Court of Appeals.

Even though our client had executed a written settlement agreement at mediation, we offered evidence that the document he signed did not sufficiently meet the requirements to settle his claim under the requirements of workers compensation law. The Court of Appeals agreed with us. It further determined that the document failed to include other terms which are required to enforce settlements in workers compensations claims. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals ordered the Industrial Commission to vacate its prior order. Gene Riddle was the primary attorney on this case.

This led to an eventual final settlement in the amount of $125,000.

Please note that prior case results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Every case is unique, and the outcome of any claim depends on a range of unique factors particular to that case.

Need to File an Appeal? Contact Our Proven NC Appellate Attorneys Today

Appealing any kind of workers compensation or personal injury claim can be a long and drawn-out process. However, it may be your only option and can lead to a positive outcome. If an appeal is an option, then you and your attorney must consider the time, expense, and the chances of success before making any decision. Your appellate lawyer can help explain all of these factors and will assist in weighing all your options.

At the law offices of Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our team of highly trained appellate attorneys have detailed knowledge of the appeals process. We also offer complimentary case reviews to help determine the potential success of appealing the ruling or decisions in your case. With four offices throughout North Carolina, we proudly serve Goldsboro, Raleigh, Jacksonville, Kinston and all surrounding areas throughout North Carolina.