Copyright 1999 - N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts


LARITA WASHINGTON, CYNTHIA WASHINGTON, Individually and as Guardian Ad Litem for TENNELL WASHINGTON and JERMAINE WASHINGTON, Plaintiffs, v. VIRGINIA WIGGINS HORTON, Defendant

No. COA98-909

(Filed 16 February 1999)

Costs--attorney fees--enumerated factors--interest

    A written judgment awarding attorney fees to plaintiff was remanded where defendant had filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its prior oral order awarding attorney fees and the court neither received evidence nor heard arguments on defendant's motion for reconsideration, although that motion raised several issues which should have been resolved by the trial court in order that it might properly exercise its discretion. Moreover, the court erred by including a provision for prejudgment and post-judgment interest in the award; attorney fees awarded pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 6-21.1 are taxed as part of court costs and there is no provision for interest on court costs.

    Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 9 June 1998 by Judge Coy E. Brewer in Cumberland County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 January 1999.

    In December of 1996, plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that they were injured in an automobile collision due to defendant's negligence and sought compensatory damages in excess of $10,000.00. On 17 March 1997, defendant served offers of judgment pursuant to Rule 68(a) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure on each of the plaintiffs. The offers, which totaled $5,573.21, were rejected by the plaintiffs. On 1 October 1997, defendant made additional offers of judgment to each of the plaintiffs in the total amount of $8,004.00. Plaintiffs did not accept the offers and the case proceeded to trial. A jury returned verdicts against defendant and awarded plaintiffs the total sum of $3,782.31. On 20 January 1998, plaintiffs moved for reasonable attorney fees pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 6-21.1 (1997).

    On 9 February 1998, the trial court orally entered an order awarding attorney fees to plaintiffs' counsel. Defendant filed a motion on 19 February 1998, asking that the trial court reconsider its order with respect to attorney fees. It does not appear from the record that the trial court ruled on defendant's motion. On 9 June 1998, the trial court signed a written judgment, which included the following findings with regard to attorney fees: