An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA02-1578


Filed: 4 November 2003


v .                         Granville County
                            No. 02 CVS 96
                            No. 01 CVD 336

    Appeal by plaintiffs from judgment entered 16 August 2002 by Judge James C. Spencer, Jr., in Superior Court in Granville County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 19 August 2003.

    Wallace W. Bradsher, Jr., for plaintiff-appellants.

    Michaux & Michaux, P.A., by Eric C. Michaux, for defendant- appellees.

    HUDSON, Judge.

    This appeal arises from consolidated lawsuits pending between Reverend Richard E. Jackson (“Rev. Jackson”) and several named deacons (“the deacons”) of Greenfield Missionary Baptist Church, who are defendants-appellees in the instant action. Greenfield Missionary Baptist Church (“the Church”) is a congregational church in Granville County. In December 2000, Rev. Jackson was hired by the deacons of the church to serve as their minister for the 2001 calendar year. In accordance with the church by-laws, Rev. Jackson entered into a one-year employment contract. During the earlymonths of 2001, conflicts arose between the deacons and Rev. Jackson. The factual and procedural background of this case is summarized in detail in the opinion of this Court in Greenfield Missionary Baptist Church, et al., v. Jackson, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (No. 02-1376, filed ___ October 2003). Here, we are only concerned with an award of attorney's fees contained in an order filed 14 August 2002 from which Rev. Jackson appeals. For the reasons discussed here, we vacate the award of attorney's fees.
    The general rule regarding attorney's fees is that each party bears its own costs, regardless of which may have prevailed. “[O]rdinarily attorneys fees are not recoverable either as an item of damages or of costs, absent express statutory authority for fixing and awarding them.” United Artists Records, Inc. v. Eastern Tape Corp., 18 N.C. App. 183, 187, 196 S.E.2d 598, 602, cert. denied, 283 N.C. 666, 197 S.E.2d 880 (1973); see also Lee Cycle Ctr., Inc. v. Wilson Cycle Ctr., Inc., 143 N.C. App. 1, 13, 545 S.E.2d 745, 752, affirmed, 354 N.C. 565, 556 S.E.2d 293 (2001). Examples of statutes authorizing attorney fee awards include N.C. Gen. Stat. § 19-8 (award of attorney's fees and costs in a public nuisance action), N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-16.1 (award of attorney fees for unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce), and N.C. Gen .Stat. § 6-21.1 (award of attorney's fees in certain personal injury, property damage and insurance cases). Here, however, neither defendants- appellees motion for attorney's fees nor the court's order awardingthose fees specifies the statutory basis for the order, and this Court has not found one.
    Further, whether to award attorney's fees under statutory authority is generally in the trial court's discretion. Thus, in order to permit review, “an award of attorney's fees usually requires that the trial court enter findings of fact as to the time and labor expended, skill required, customary fee for like work, and experience or ability of the attorney based on competent evidence.” Couch v. Private Diagnostic Clinic, 146 N.C. App. 658, 672, 554 S.E.2d 356, 366 (2001), disc. review denied, 355 N.C. 348, 563 S.E.2d 562 (2002). The order awarding attorney's fees in this case, however, does not include sufficient findings to reveal the rationale for the court's decision so as to permit appellate review.
    Thus, because the trial court's award of attorney's fees is not based on statutory authority and because the court failed to make sufficient findings to support its award, we vacate that part of the 14 August 2002 order awarding attorney's fees.
    Judges WYNN and CALABRIA concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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