In a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision[i], the issue before the court was whether or not the plaintiff timely sought to renew its judgment within the 10-year statute of limitations period. The answer to this question essentially turned on whether the plaintiff was required to file its action to renew its judgment within 10-years of the date of entry of the original judgment or that of the amended judgment.
The value of the judgment the plaintiff sought to have renewed was in excess of $1 million, (including principal, pre and post judgment interest, and attorney’s fees) and resulted from defendant’s breach of a commercial lease.[ii] After the original judgment was entered in 2009, the defendant filed a motion to amend the judgment pursuant to Rule 52(b) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. In its motion, the defendant asked the court to add specific findings of fact and conclusions of law to the judgment, and recalculate damages based on those findings. Ultimately, the court rejected all of the defendant’s requests, but in its discretion, added its own additional findings of facts and conclusions of law. Still, the court did not disturb or alter the relief granted to the plaintiff in its original judgment.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals determined that, “where the trial court amends a judgment pursuant to Rule 52(b) alone and includes additional findings of fact and conclusions of law without disturbing the ultimate relief afforded to the prevailing party, the validity of the original judgment is undisturbed.”
Therefore, the plaintiff’s statue of limitations began to run from the date of entry of the original judgment, not the date of the amended judgment.[iii] Because the plaintiff failed to file its action to renew within 10 years of the date of entry of the original judgment, its action to renew its judgment was time barred. As a result, the plaintiff is unable to renew its judgment, and is ultimately unable to recover any of the more than $1 million awarded by the original judgment.
[ii] Henry James Bar-Be-Que, Inc. was the plaintiff in the original 2009 action. It subsequently assigned its judgment to K&S Resources, LLC in 2016.
[iii] Because not all amended judgments are created equal, the Court also explained that, “[W]here the trial court sits without a jury, and enters a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e), the amended judgment is a new judgment.” In such a case, the entry date of the amended judgment, rather than that of the original judgment would be used to calculate the 10-year statutory period in which the plaintiff could bring an action to renew its judgment.
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