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Civil Practice – Statute of Limitations – Labor & Employment – Public Employees – Schools & School Boards – Teacher Tenure – Amended Statute

Civil Practice – Statute of Limitations – Labor & Employment – Public Employees – Schools & School Boards – Teacher Tenure – Amended Statute

Thompson v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-16-0964, 15 pp.) (Ann Marie Calabria, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County Superior Court (Richard L. Doughton, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: After plaintiff’s return from California and her completion of a one-year teaching contract, the defendant-school board should have voted on tenure status for plaintiff, who had career status as a teacher before she moved to California. Plaintiff’s claim accrued when the school board failed to hold the vote on June 15, 2006. Since she filed her claim more than three years later, it is barred by the statute of limitations.

We affirm summary judgment for defendant.

In 2009, G.S. § 115C-325(c)(1) was amended to allow for a later accrual date. The amending bill indicates that the act “applies to proceedings initiated after August 31, 2009.”

Although plaintiff initiated this action on Feb. 5, 2010, the amendment does not apply. Applying the statute retroactively would destroy the school board’s vested right to rely on a statute of limitations defense; thus, the statute may only be applied retroactively. We find nothing in the amended statute to indicate that the legislature intended the amendment to apply retroactively. Plaintiff is subject to the old statute.

Applying the older version of the statute, plaintiff’s claim is clearly barred by the statute of limitations. After the 2005-2006 school year, defendant should have voted on plaintiff’s tenure status. Defendant failed to do so, and plaintiff signed another contract as a probationary teacher for the following year. Under the language of the old statute and Hicks v. Wake Cty. Bd. of Educ., 187 N.C. App. 485, 653 S.E.2d 236 (2007), the statute of limitation on plaintiff’s claim accrued on June 16, 2006, the day after the board should have first voted on her career status, but did not. Plaintiff should have filed her claim within three years from June 16, 2006. Since plaintiff filed her claim on Feb. 5, 2010, she failed to file her claim before the statute of limitations had run on her claim, and her claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

Since plaintiff was well aware of her long employment history in N.C. schools, and since the policy regarding the granting of career status to previously tenured teachers after one year was available to her, she cannot now claim equitable estoppel because of her ignorance of the law.



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