Recent Case -- Tort Claims Act -- Negligence versus Intentional Acts

Persons can sue the State of North Carolina for acts of "negligence" by State employees. Such suits (or claims) are filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

In a recent case, Crump v. NCDENR (September 20, 2011) an agent of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tested soil for its suitability for a septic system. The report was favorable, and the Crumps purchased land based on this finding. It was later discovered that this agent had mis-reported the suitability of many plots of land for a septic system, and had in fact accepted bribes for such reports. The Crumps land was not suitable for a septic system, and they had to purchase adjoining property to accommodate such a system. They then sued the State under the Tort Claims Act.

The Crumps prevailed in their action. The State argued, on appeal, that the State inspector was not a State employee, that he acted outside his employment, and (most importantly) that his actions were intentional and not negligent, and thus that the State retained its immunity from liability. Notwithstanding that the State inspector "intentionally certified incorrect soil depths," the court concluded that he did not intend to injure the Crumps, and that therefore the claim was covered by the Act, and the State was liable.

In other recent cases, the court has rejected arguments that the State was entitled to the benefit of the Public Duty Doctrine. See case 1case2.

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