Charlotte, NC Law Firm
Looking for a Charlotte Premises Liability Lawyer Near You?
Call Today!
Health, Safety, and Environmental Signs for Danger and Caution in Charlotte

NC Premises Liability

The North Carolina Courts have continually defined willful and wanton conduct.  Nelson v. Freeland349 N.C. 615, 507 S.E.2d 882 (1998); Jones v. Southern RY. CO et al, 199 N.C. 1, 153 S.E. 637 (1930); Foster v. Hyman, 197 N.C. 189, 148 S.E. 36 (1929); Howard v. Jackson, 120 N.C. App. 243, 461 S.E.2d 793 (1995); Siders v. Gibbs, 39 N.C.App. 183, 249 S.E.2d 858 (1978).

In Siders, the Supreme Court stated “an act is done willfully when it is done purposely and deliberately in violation of law or when it is done knowingly and of set purpose, or when the mere will has free play, without yielding to reason.”  Id. at 186. 

The Supreme Court went on to quote from Bailey v. R.R., 149 N.C. 169, 62 S.E. 912 stating, “the true conception of willful negligence involves a deliberate purpose not to discharge some duty necessary to the safety of the person or property of another, which duty the person owing it has assumed by contract, or which is imposed by operation of law.”  Siders at 186.  The Court in Siders went on to define wanton conduct quoting from Ballew v. R.R., 186 N.C. 704, 706 120 S.E. 334 (1923).  The Court stated, “a act is wanton when it is done of wicked purpose or when done needlessly, manifesting a reckless indifference to the rights of others.”  Siders at 187.  The Nelson Court stated that an act is wanton when “performed intentionally with a reckless indifference to the injuries likely to result.”  

Nelson at 618.  In Starr v. Clapp, 40 N.C.App 142, 252 S.E.2d 220 the Court vacated and remanded a jury verdict for plaintiff that found defendant willfully and wantonly injured plaintiff trespasser by stringing up a metal wire over a dirt path that plaintiff rode his ATV.   In finding the defendant’s actions not willful or wanton the Court took pains to note that “the evidence further discloses that defendants did not know (or even have reason to suspect) that plaintiff or anyone else had ever ridden a motorcycle on their property… Finally it is very clear that we are not here faced with a situation where a landowner, expecting the arrival of trespassers, deliberately creates an inherently dangerous condition and leaves it with a deceptive appearance of safety in order to trap or harm intruders.”  Id. at 148.  Judge Hendrick, in dissenting from the majority felt that there was enough evidence in this much less egregious case to find the defendants acted willfully and wantonly to plaintiff trespasser. 

The Judge noted in his dissent that he focused on whether there is any evidence to support a finding that the defendants “knew the probable consequences” of their act and whether they were “recklessly, wantonly or intentionally indifferent to the results.”  While the defendants testified that they had no actual knowledge that the minor plaintiff had ever ridden his motorbike on their private drive, there is ample evidence in the record tending to show that automobiles, motorcycles, and even horses, were ridden by trespassers on the roadway in question on numerous occasions over a period of many months after the defendants purchased the property, and while the defendants were working on the house located on the property.

Although there is evidence in the record that the 3/8 inch aluminum cable was easily visible at a distance of 180 feet, there is also evidence tending to show that the cable blended in with the surroundings and was barely visible even to a person who knew it was there.

This evidence, when considered in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, gives rise to the following inferences: (1) that the defendants knew that trespassers were riding motorcycles or trail bikes over their private driveway; (2) that the 3/8 inch aluminum cable was difficult to see, even if one knew it was there; and (3) that the cable stretched across the driveway at a height of 31/2 to 4 feet would be dangerous to persons riding motorcycles or trail bikes. These inferences would permit the jury to find that the defendants knew the probable consequences of their act, and that they were recklessly, wantonly, and heedlessly indifferent to the results in creating the condition that proximately caused the minor plaintiff’s injuries. Id. at 149, 150.

An equally divided Supreme Court heard the case with the seventh justice, Justice Brock, unable to participate due to illness.  As such, the question of defendant’s willful and wanton conduct was affirmed without precedential value.

premises liability cases are very fact specific.  A slight fact variation will change the entire case.  As such, it is suggested you speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your rights. Please contact us to discuss your case.

Additional Premises Liability Articles

March 10, 2023
Don’t Sign Anything After a Slip and Fall Accident

If you've been involved in a slip and fall accident, it's important to know your rights and what to do to protect yourself. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to never sign anything without first consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney, like those at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC. What to […]

January 25, 2022
The Rise of Delivery Services and the Increase of Workers Injured on the Job

With the growth of companies like Amazon, Grubhub and Uber Eats, home delivery services have been increasing in popularity for a number of years. The pandemic led to an even greater demand for home delivery services which resulted in other companies, like Walmart, expanding their delivery services.  The implications for the future of this increase […]

December 16, 2021
Top Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury law, also referred to as “tort” law, is the body of law that allows individuals who are injured by the negligent or intentional conduct of another to bring a lawsuit and recover damages for those injuries. The damages are intended as a remedy; a way to compensate for injuries, or a way to […]

July 20, 2021
Slip and Fall Injuries

Personal injury is a broad term used to describe a situation where someone gets hurt because of the action, or inaction, of another. Under the broader personal injury umbrella are specific types of personal injury cases. They include car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death and premises liability. What they all have in common is that […]

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram