Winkler v. N.C. State Board of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler ContractorsAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's award of attorney fees to Defendant, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 6-19.1 does not preclude a trial court from awarding attorney's fees in disciplinary actions by a licensing board, but when there is substantial justification for the agency's claims, the award of attorney's fees is unjust.
The North Carolina State Board of Plumbing, Heater, & Fire Sprinkler Contractors disciplined Dale Winkler for working on a pool heater without proper licensure. The trial court affirmed. The court of appeals concluded that the Board lacked jurisdiction to discipline Winkler for conducting the pool heater inspection and vacated the portion of the Board's order relating to Winkler's inspection of the pool heater. Winkler then filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs. The trial court awarded Winkler attorney's fees and costs. The court of appeals held that the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees because section 6-19.1 excludes cases arising out of the defense of a disciplinary action by a licensing board. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the trial court erred in awarding Winkler attorney's fees because there was substantial justification for the Board's claims.