A fire occurred at the Imperial Foods Products chicken plant. Several employees (plaintiffs) were injured or died because the exits in the plant were unmarked, blocked, and inaccessible. After the fire, the North Carolina Department of Labor (the Department) (defendant) conducted an inspection of the plant. This was the first and only inspection during the 11 years that the plant was operating. The Department discovered violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina, including inadequate and blocked exits, as well as an inadequate fire suppression system. The Department issued 83 citations for these violations. The plaintiffs sued the Department under the Tort Claims Act (TCA), N.C. Gen. Stat. §§143-291 to 143-300.1. The plaintiffs asserted a negligence claim alleging that the Department had a duty to inspect the plant, the Department breached that duty, and the failure to inspect caused the plaintiffs’ injuries. The Department moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the Industrial Commission denied the motion. The Department appealed to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina, which affirmed. The Department then appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.