Most civil disputes in North Carolina that involve significant sums of money are litigated in the Superior Courts of each individual county. For a variety of reasons, though, the Superior Court may not be the best venue for a complex business litigation. One of the primary reasons is that during each separate stage of the case on the way toward trial, the parties may have a different judge assigned. That judge will often know little to nothing of the case’s factual background or procedural history. This can lead to tediously long hearings that waste the Court’s and the parties’ time (and money). It can also make it more likely that an adversary can exaggerate or misrepresent facts. Fortunately, North Carolina’s Business Court is often a viable alternative.
The North Carolina Business Court offers many advantages to litigants. Chief among those is that a single judge is assigned to case. This means that the judge will not need to be “re-educated” every time the parties have a dispute that must be addressed by the Court. Like Federal Court, the Business Court also offers electronic filing and requires the filing of memoranda of law in support of motions. This means that the litigants have adequate time to analyze and research an opposing party’s position and respond in detail. They do not have to deal with “litigation by surprise” which is all too often the case in Superior Court, where briefs do not have to be filed and the attorneys many times learn the basis of a motion for the first time at the hearing where they have to respond “on the fly.”
The statute governing which cases can be assigned to the North Carolina Business Court can be found at N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-45.4. The cases that may be assigned to the Business Court typically involve:
- Disputes involving the law governing corporation;
- Disputes involving securities (e.g. stock shares and bonds);
- Disputes involving antitrust law;
- Disputes involving trademark law;
- Disputes involving the ownership, use, licensing, lease, installation, or performance of intellectual property, including computer software, software applications, information technology and systems, data and data security, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology products, and bioscience technologies; and
- Disputes involving trade secrets.
The statute also indicates that if any case involves one of these issues and at least $5,000,000 is at stake, it shall be transferred to the Business Court. Breach of contract claims can also sometimes be heard before the North Carolina Business Court. Certain conditions must be met though. Those conditions include that (a) at least one plaintiff and at least one defendant is a corporation, partnership, or LLC, (b) the “amount in controversy” is at least $1,000,000, and (c) all parties consent to the transfer to the business court.
It is important to understand that the designation of a case as a Business Court matter must be done very early in the case. A plaintiff wishing to transfer the case from the Superior Court to the Business Court must do so in a “Notice of Designation” filed contemporaneously with the Complaint. A defendant wishing to do so must do so within 30 days of service of the Complaint by the plaintiff.
The Raleigh civil litigation attorneys at Maginnis Howard are experienced in handling complex lawsuits. Whether representing the plaintiff or the defendant, we have had success, both in trial and before trial. If you have been sued in a case transferred to the North Carolina Business Court, or would like to consider filing your own business dispute before the Business Court, contact our North Carolina Business Court attorneys. Visit our contact page or call (919) 526-0450.