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Home / Opinion Digests / Civil Practice / Civil Practice – Statute of Limitations – Tort/Negligence – Auto Accident – Insurance – UM Carrier – Service of Process

Civil Practice – Statute of Limitations – Tort/Negligence – Auto Accident – Insurance – UM Carrier – Service of Process

Powell v. Kent (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-017-18, 9 pp.) (John Arrowood, J.) Appealed from Haywood County Superior Court (Sharon Tracey Barrett, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Although plaintiff instituted an action within the three-year limitations period applicable to automobile negligence actions and properly served the individual defendants, the uninsured motorist carrier was not served with the summons and complaint until after the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations. Accordingly, we are compelled to hold that the trial court did not err by granting summary judgment in favor of the UM carrier.


Thomas v. Washington, 136 N.C. App. 750, 525 S.E.2d 839, disc. review denied, 352 N.C. 598, 545 S.E.2d 223 (2000), and Davis v. Urquiza, 233 N.C. App. 462, 757 S.E.2d 327 (2014), hold that the three-year tort statute of limitations, which begins running on the date of an accident, applies to the UM carrier. These holdings appear to be inconsistent with other applications of the statute of limitation which hold that cases are timely when filed within the statute of limitation, with service of process permitted within the time frames set forth in N.C. R. Civ. P. 4, even when service is accomplished after the statute of limitation has expired.

While we are unable to discern any requirement in G.S. § 20-279.21(b)(3)(a) that specifically requires in an uninsured motorist action that service of process also be accomplished before the date the statute of limitation expires, we are bound by the prior determinations in Thomas and Davis. Given this inconsistent application of the statutes of limitation for similarly situated litigants, this situation appears ripe for determination or clarification by our Supreme Court or the Legislature.


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