NC District Court Denies Defendants’ Request to Stay Proceedings Pending Outcome in North Carolina Industrial Commission Action

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, February 25, 2020

NORTH CAROLINA – The plaintiff, Belinda Foushee filed a claim with North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) against Appalachian State University (ASU) alleging her daughter, Anneka Foushee or the decedent, contracted and died from mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos-containing products she used as a student at ASU. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 143-291, NCIC adjudicates tort claims against the institutions and agencies of the State of North Carolina that arise as a result of the negligence of a state employee. That action is still pending.

A year after filing her claim with NCIC, Foushee sued the defendants in federal court for negligent failure to warn, breach of implied warranty, negligent design, gross negligence and wrongful death due to the decedent’s alleged exposure to asbestos-containing products at ASU. At the summary judgment stage, the defendants filed a motion to stay the proceedings in federal court pending the result of the parallel NCIC action. “[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.[i]” Federal district courts within North Carolina, therefore, have the power to stay the current proceeding until the NCIC proceeding is resolved. 

The court clarified that it has only exercised its power to stay the proceeding in favor of an NCIC action when the parties and factual circumstances in the parallel proceedings have been the same. Here, the court held that the parallel proceedings are not the same. The proceedings do not include any of the same defendants and the substantive issues and facts are not the same. Accordingly, the court declined to exercise its inherent power and denied the defendants’ motion to stay.

Read the case decision here.

[i] Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936).