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Dickens v. Puryear

Supreme Court of North Carolina
276 S.E.2d 325 (1981)


Facts

When he was 31 years old, John Dickens (plaintiff) had sex and shared drugs and alcohol with the 17-year-old daughter of Earl and Ann Puryear (defendants). On April 2, 1975, the Puryears lured Dickens to a remote spot where he was severely beaten by several men. During the two-hour episode, Earl pointed a gun at Dickens, brandished a knife, cut Dickens’ hair, and pondered with the other assailants whether to kill or castrate him. In the end, Dickens was released under Earl’s instructions that he disconnect his phone, pack his belongings, and leave the state; otherwise, he would be killed. On March 31, 1978, Dickens sued the Puryears in a North Carolina state court, alleging that they had intentionally inflicted mental distress upon him and that such distress had caused him lasting mental and physical injuries including extreme fear, an inability to work effectively, and gastrointestinal and gum disorders. The trial court sustained the Puryears’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that Dickens’ claim was, in substance, a claim for assault and battery, which was subject to a one-year statute of limitations. An appellate court affirmed. Dickens appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Exum, J.)

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