Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Acosta v. Byrum et al. case brief

Acosta v. Byrum et al. case brief summary
638 S.E.2d 246 (2006)

Plaintiff patient sued, among others, defendant doctor, for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The patient alleged that the doctor improperly allowed an office manager access to her medical records, and that she suffered severe emotional distress, humiliation, and anguish from the exposure of her records to third parties. The Pitt County Superior Court (North Carolina) dismissed the case against the doctor. The patient appealed.


Only the complaint against the doctor was dismissed and claims remained against the other defendants. Although the trial court made no certification, the claim against the doctor was factually similar to the claims against the other defendants, and the dismissal of the claim against doctor raised the possibility of inconsistent verdicts in later proceedings.


  • The appellate court therefore reviewed the dismissal under the substantial right exception to the general rule prohibiting interlocutory appeals. 
  • The patient alleged all the substantive elements of negligent infliction of emotional distress and alleged sufficient facts to support those claims. 
  • Dismissal of the complaint was improper. 
  • The doctor, who was a citizen and resident of Alabama, was the owner of a medical practice doing business in North Carolina. 
  • Thus, North Carolina's long arm statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-75.4(4)(a) (2005), applied to the doctor. 
  • As owner of a business in North Carolina, the doctor purposefully availed himself within the state and invoked the protection of the laws. 
  • Thus, the doctor had minimal contacts with the state. Jurisdiction over the doctor was proper.


The judgment was reversed.

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