An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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. COA05-436


Filed: 17 January 2006


v .                         Mecklenburg County
                            No. 03 CVS 10578

    Appeal by defendant from amended judgment entered 15 December 2004 by Judge W. Robert Bell in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 17 November 2005.

    DeVore, Acton & Stafford, P.A., by Fred W. DeVore III, for plaintiffs-appellees.

    Newitt & Bruny, by Roger H. Bruny, for defendant-appellant.

    LEVINSON, Judge.

    This appeal arises from a dispute over the coverage provided by a commercial home inspection professional liability insurance policy. Defendant appeals from a judgment awarding damages to plaintiffs, based on a verdict finding defendant liable for injuries caused by Charles Solland, LLC. We reverse.
    The following is established by stipulation or uncontradicted evidence: In the spring of 2000, plaintiffs George and Betsy Wilcox purchased a home in Charlotte, North Carolina. A pre- closing inspection was performed by Charles Solland, LLC on 14 January 2000. On 25 January 2001 plaintiffs filed suit againstseveral defendants, including Charles Solland, LLC, seeking damages arising from “substantial defects” in the property, and alleging that Charles Solland, LLC had negligently failed to identify these defects in its inspection. Plaintiffs eventually received money from the other defendants, but not from Charles Solland, LLC. On 4 March 2003 a default judgment was entered against Charles Solland, LLC for approximately $137,795.
    On 21 October 2003 plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against the National Association of Licensed Appraisers, d/b/a the Foundation of Real Estate Appraisers (FREA), and against Bankers Insurance Company. Plaintiffs alleged that Charles Solland, LLC was a former member of FREA, and was covered “from November, 1999, through May 1, 2001” by “a policy of errors and omissions liability insurance with Defendant Bankers Insurance Company, which was obtained through Defendant FREA.” Both defendants denied that Charles Solland, LLC was covered by the policy, and moved for summary judgment. On 1 September 2004 the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant FREA, which is not a party to this appeal. However, the court denied defendant Bankers Insurance Company's motion for summary judgment.
    A jury trial was conducted in November 2004. The defendant moved for directed verdict at the close of the plaintiffs' evidence, and again at the close of all the evidence; both motions were denied. Following the presentation of evidence, the jury returned the following verdict:
    1.    Did the defendant, Bankers Insurance Company, issue a policy of errors and omissionscoverage to Chuck Solland, LLC? Answer: Yes.

    2.    Was the wrongful act of January 14, 2000 covered under the policy of insurance issued by the defendant, Bankers Insurance Company? Answer: Yes.

    3.    Did Chuck Solland, LLC, provide timely notice of the claim of George and Betsy Wilcox to the defendant Bankers Insurance Company? Answer: Yes.

Upon this verdict, the trial court entered judgment for plaintiffs in the amount of $137,795.51, plus costs and interest. From this judgment, defendant appeals.

    Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying its motions for directed verdict. We agree.
    We first review the standard for entry of a directed verdict:
        A motion for directed verdict tests the sufficiency of the evidence to take the case to the jury. . . . In making its determination of whether to grant the motion, the trial court must examine all of the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the nonmoving party must be given the benefit of all reasonable inferences[.] . . . [If] the trial judge finds that there is evidence to support each element of the nonmoving party's cause of action, then the motion for directed verdict . . . should be denied.

Abels v. Renfro Corp., 335 N.C. 209, 214-15, 436 S.E.2d 822, 825 (1993) (citations omitted). “The court should deny motions for directed verdict . . . when it finds any evidence more than a scintilla to support plaintiff's prima facie case in all its constituent elements.” Clark v. Moore, 65 N.C. App. 609, 610, 309 S.E.2d 579, 580-81 (1983) (citation omitted). On appeal, “[t]hisCourt applies de novo review to a trial court's denial of a motion for directed verdict.” Cannon v. Day, 165 N.C. App. 302, 306, 598 S.E.2d 207, 211 (citing Denson v. Richmond County, 159 N.C. App. 408, 411, 583 S.E.2d 318, 320 (2003)), disc. review denied, 359 N.C. 67, 604 S.E.2d 309 (2004).
    The insurance policy at issue is a group professional liability policy issued to FREA, which makes it available to its members. Defendant contends that plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that Charles Solland, LLC was insured under this policy. We agree.
    “We first note the well-settled principle that an insurance policy is a contract and its provisions govern the rights and duties of the parties thereto.” Fidelity Bankers Life Ins. Co. v. Dortch, 318 N.C. 378, 380, 348 S.E.2d 794, 796 (1986) (citations omitted). “If the language of a contract is plain and unambiguous, the construction of the agreement is a matter of law for the court.” W.S. Clark & Sons, Inc. v. Ruiz, 87 N.C. App. 420, 421, 360 S.E.2d 814, 816 (1987) (citation omitted). “Further, this Court has stated that if a policy is not ambiguous, then the court must enforce the policy as written and may not remake the policy under the guise of interpreting an ambiguous provision.” Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Mabe, 342 N.C. 482, 492, 467 S.E.2d 34, 40 (1996) (citing Wachovia Bank & Trust Co. v. Westchester Fire Ins. Co., 276 N.C. 348, 354, 172 S.E.2d 518, 522 (1970)).
    With these principles in mind, we review certain provisions in the insurance policy. The policy states that it provides coverageto “a Member.” The term “Member” is defined by the policy as “all persons, natural and legal, named in the Certificate of Membership.” In turn, “Certificate of Membership” is defined as the “membership certificate issued to a Member by the Group Sponsor.” In the instant case, it is undisputed that FREA is the Group Sponsor. It is likewise undisputed that FREA issued a Certificate of Membership to Charles Solland, and not to Charles Solland, LLC.
    It is settled law that a corporation has a legal identity separate from its individual owners. “A corporation, even one closely held, is recognized as a separate legal entity in this jurisdiction.” Quick v. Quick, 305 N.C. 446, 460, 290 S.E.2d 653, 662 (1982). Further, the separate legal identity of a corporation from its individual owner applies to insurance coverage. See, e.g., Cherry v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 162 N.C. App. 535, 539, 590 S.E.2d 925, 929 (2004) (policy issued to corporation did not provide coverage for the corporation's owner as an individual). In Cherry, the plaintiff asked the trial court to “disregard [the corporation's] separate corporate identity . . . for the purpose of reaching State Farm's coverage.” This Court held that:
        Granting plaintiffs' request would be tantamount to rewriting the terms of the subject policy by requiring State Farm, [the corporation's] liability insurance provider, to cover someone other than the named insured. Plaintiffs have cited no authority supporting the application of piercing the corporate veil in this manner, and we decline to adopt it.

Id.    In the instant case, plaintiffs argue that there is evidence tending to show that Charles Solland intended to register Charles Solland, LLC as a member of FREA, or that he wanted insurance coverage for the corporation. However, plaintiffs concede that Charles Solland, LLC is not a named Member in the FREA Certificate of Membership, and assert that “the membership certificate was erroneously issued by FREA.” Assuming, arguendo, that the Certificate was “erroneously” issued to Charles Solland, plaintiffs cite no authority allowing us to disregard the plain language of the policy and of the Certificate of Membership. Accordingly, because Charles Solland, LLC is not named on the Certificate of Membership, it was never a member of FREA, and thus was not covered by the professional liability insurance policy issued to Charles Solland.
    Because Charles Solland, LLC was not listed as a member on the FREA Certificate of Membership, it was not a member as the term is defined by the professional liability policy, and was not covered by the policy. Accordingly, the trial court erred by denying defendant's motion for directed verdict, and the judgment entered must be reversed and remanded for entry of directed verdict in favor of defendant.
    Reversed and remanded.
    Judges HUDSON and TYSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

*** Converted from WordPerfect ***