Hitchcock v. Rupert, 2022-NCCOA-268 (2022) (unpublished).
In North Carolina, domestic violence falls under Chapter 50B of the General Statutes. It serves to protect a party who is or was in a relationship with the perpetrator. Harassment can rise to a level where a domestic violence order of protection is proper. Below is an example of conduct that rises to that level.
- Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant were in a relationship from 2018 through 2020. While together, they started a landscaping business. They eventually broke up. Plaintiff started taking steps to remove Defendant from the landscaping business, such as removal from the company credit card and cancelling the service on Defendant’s phone. During arguments, Defendant was violent and would get into physical altercations with Plaintiff. Defendant also threatened to burn down Plaintiff’s home multiple times. Plaintiff eventually found a gun in their home, which he believed would be used by Defendant. Plaintiff moved out of the home shortly thereafter. Based on this conduct, the trial court found that Defendant’s harassment rose to the level of causing Plaintiff substantial emotional distress, and thus committed acts of domestic violence. Defendant appealed.
- Issue: Did the trial court err in concluding that Defendant committed acts of domestic violence?
- Rationale: Harassment in North Carolina is defined as knowingly participating in conduct that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies a person and serves no legitimate purpose. It is subjective, meaning that its effects need to be felt by that person, regardless of what others may think. Plaintiff testified that he was terrified because of the threats to burn down his house and the finding of a gun in his home, and because of the physical altercations with Defendant. There was no legitimate purpose in those threats made by Defendant. Finally, Plaintiff experienced emotional distress by believing Defendant would harm him with the gun, or by burning down his home. Plaintiff’s testimony was enough to support such a finding because it placed Plaintiff in fear of continued harassment by Defendant.
- Lessons and Observations:
- This is a simple case where conduct goes too far and rises to a level of harassment. Although not written about, one of the bigger pieces of evidence that showed that Plaintiff was actually emotionally distressed was the fact that he left his home.