Mr. A. A. Adams, Chairman North Carolina Victims Compensation Commission 4703 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-4703
Re: Advisory Opinion; Powers of the Victims Compensation Commission and its Director; N.C.G.S. §§ 15B-10(a) and 11(b)
Dear Mr. Adams:
Your letter to Attorney General Michael Easley was referred to this section for response. On behalf of the N.C. Crime Victims Compensation Commission, you have requested an advisory opinion with regard to the respective powers of the Commission and its Director in awarding compensation to victims.
As recently amended, N.C.G.S. § 15B-11(b) provides that a victims compensation claim may be denied or award reduced if (1) the victim was participating in a nontraffic misdemeanor at or about the time that the victim’s injury occurred or (2) the claimant, or a victim through whom the claimant claims, engaged in contributory misconduct. This section further provides:
. . . The Commission shall use its discretion in determining whether to deny a claim under this section. In exercising its discretion, the Commission may consider whether any proximate cause exists between the injury and the misdemeanor or contributory misconduct.
According to N.C.G.S. § 15B-10(a) the Director will decide the award of compensation for an initial claim or follow-up claim when the claim does not exceed $7,500.00 and does not include future economic loss.
There is an obvious conflict between § 15B-10(a) and recently amended § 15B11(b) with respect to awards of less than $7,500.00 to a victim who may have participated in a nontraffic misdemeanor or who may have engaged in contributory misconduct. Is that power vested in the Director as § 15B-10(a) provides or is that power vested in the Commission as § 15B-11(b) provides? Two rules of statutory construction provide a resolution to this conflict.
First, where the same statute contains a particular provision and a general provision which includes the same matter and the general provision is incompatible with the particular provision, the particular provision must be regarded as an exception to the general provision. The general provision must be held to cover only such cases within its general language as are not within the terms of the particular provision. In re Steelman, 219 N.C. 306, 13 S.E.2d 544(1941). This is especially true where the specific provision is the later enactment. Food Stores v. Board of Alcoholic Control, 268 N.C. 624, 151 S.E. 2d 582(1964). N.C.G.S. § 15B-10(a) is the general provision while § 15B-11(b) is the specific provision which controls.
Under the second rule of statutory construction, a later statutory provision is deemed an amendment to the former. Courts will infer that an amendment to an unambiguous provision shows a legislative intent to change the law. Taylor v. Crisp, 286 N.C. 488, 497, 212 S.E.2d 381, 387 (1975). Thus, § 15B-10(a) is deemed amended by the later provision § 15B-11(b) and the later provision controls.
Based on these rules of statutory contribution, it is the opinion of this office that in all cases of nontraffic misdemeanors and contributory misconduct the final decision to award or deny a claim must be made by the Commission even if the amount of the claim is less than $7,500.00. The Director recommends denial or award of such claims and the Commission decides.
James J. Coman Senior Deputy Attorney General
Isaac T. Avery, III Special Deputy Attorney General