Recently a bill was introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly to be entitled “An Act to Modernize the Business Court by Making Technical, Clarifying, and Administrative Changes to the Procedures for Complex Cases.” The bill proposes changes to the following sections; Appeals of right from the courts of the trial divisions, Superior Court judges designated for complex business cases, designation of complex business cases, costs in civil actions, and duties of director.

Each of the proposed changes are briefly explained below:

Appeals of Right from the Court of the Trial Division: The proposed change would mean that a direct appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court could be made from any final judgment in a case designated as a mandatory complex business case per G.S. §7A-45.4.

Superior Court Judges Designated for Complex Business Cases: The proposed change to this section requires that the presiding Business Court Judge issue a written opinion upon the final disposition of a complex business case.

Designation of Complex Business Cases: The proposed change excludes intellectual property law cases, including software licensing disputes, cases involving the Internet, electronic commerce, and biotechnology, and cases involving tax law, when the dispute has been the subject of a contested tax case for which judicial review is requested under G.S. 105-241.16 or the dispute is a civil action under G.S. 105-241.17 from being within the jurisdiction of the business court.

Further, the proposed change expands the category of cases that may qualify to be designated as complex business litigation to those that are (1) “disputes involving trade secrets under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes, and (2) contract disputes if the following conditions are met:

a) at least one plaintiff or one defendant must be authorized to transact business in North Carolina

b) the claim must be for breach of contract or seek a declaration of an obligation under a contract; and

c) the amount in controversy must be at least one million dollars.

Finally, this proposed change would require that certain cases be designated as mandatory complex business cases. The required mandatory complex business cases are those that (1) involve a material issue related to tax law that has been the subject of a contested tax case for which judicial review is requested under G.S. 105-241.6 or that is a civil action under G.S. 105-241.17, (2) the amount in controversy is at least five million dollars, and (3) involve regulation of pole attachments brought pursuant to G.S. 62-350.

Costs in Civil Actions: This proposed change increases the fee for designating a case to the Business court from $1,000 to $1,100.

Duties of Director: The proposed change to this section would require that the Director of the Administrative Officer of the Courts prepare and submit a semiannual report on the activities of each North Carolina business court site to the Chief Justice and to each member of the General Assembly