Ke v. Zhou (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-356-17, 11 pp.) (Chris Dillon, J.) Appealed from Guilford County Superior Court (Richard Gottlieb, J.) N.C. App.
Holding: Although a corporate officer may make an appearance for a corporation in order to require that any default judgment be entered by a judge and not by the clerk of court, the defendant-corporate officer could not file a valid answer on behalf of the corporate defendant because he was not a licensed attorney. Accordingly, the clerk of court could enter default against the corporation.
We affirm both judgment for plaintiff and the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees.
Where the corporate defendant did not move to set aside entry of default until approximately seven months after the default was entered by the clerk, we cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in declining to set aside entry of default.
Even though the license that defendant Zhou actually displayed to plaintiffs was an electrician’s license, there was also evidence that (1) Zhou told plaintiff Ke that “he had all the legal paper,” (2) Zhou said he had a general contractor’s license, and (3) Zhou showed Ke papers with the state seal and his company name on them and told Ke that the papers were his general contractor’s license. Consequently, the issue of whether plaintiffs were reasonable in relying upon Zhou’s statement that he was a licensed general contractor – despite the fact that he simultaneously displayed an electrician’s license – was one for the jury. The trial court properly denied defendants’ motion for a directed verdict.
Despite the fact that the trial court found that defendants’ actions constituted unfair trade practices, the court also found that defendants did not engage in an unwarranted refusal to fully resolve the matter. The court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiffs’ motion for attorney’s fees.