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Verdicts & Settlements

Water authority wanted a do-over on property seizure, but didn’t get it  (access required)

There are no refunds in condemnation actions. That’s the hard lesson the Onslow County Water and Sewer Authority learned recently when it tried to back out of a deal for some 350 acres needed to expand a wastewater treatment facility. In April 2008, the authority condemned four tracts of land just outside of Richlands, owned by the Rogers and Boggs families. The authority appraised the tracts as farmland, and deposited $1.9 million as just compensation. Shortly after, the owners discovered that two of the tracts had significant limestone deposits underneath, and brought in a geologist to take samples.

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Court tells DOT to take whole parcel, not just a portion of land  (access required)

Seventeen years after the state Department of Transportation first identified her property as in the path of Raleigh’s 540 Outer Loop extension, Blanche Morris will finally get her just compensation. Morris, now almost 90, lived in the same farmhouse on Jenks Road in Apex for more than 60 years and moved out last year, after the Turnpike Authority filed its condemnation action and deposited $1,216,500. At that time, the authority took only a 27-acre parcel that fronted Jenks Road and through which the roadway passed directly.

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Two years and thousands of dollars later, dental woes persisted   (access required)

In January 2007, when Teresa Henson first checked in as a patient of dentist Robert Labusohr, she already had a mouthful of problems. Almost two years and $16,000 later, those problems had only multiplied. “This was a single mom who saved her money to go into this dentist’s office, to the tune of $16,000 and a hole in her mouth,” said her attorney Jodee Sparkman Larcade of Raleigh’s Larcade & Heiskell. After five days of trial in November, a jury awarded Henson $200,000 in damages on her dental malpractice claims.

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Jury unconvinced that doctor was negligent (access required)

A jury in Cleveland County Superior Court has decided that a vascular surgeon was not to blame for a patient’s leg amputation. The Nov. 16 verdict cleared Dr. Harry D. Hobson of any negligence in his treatment of 64-year-old Marian E. Green. She sued Hobson in March 2010 after he failed to restore circulation to her left leg, which later had to be amputated above the knee. A different doctor had performed knee surgery on Green, and an artery near her knee was damaged during the procedure. The injury restricted blood flow to Green’s lower leg and foot. After realizing that Green was having complications from the surgery, her physician called on Hobson to save her leg. Isaac N. Northup (pictured) of Asheville was Hobson's trial attorney.

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Many questions, few answers in home lawsuit (access required)

Ignorance of the law is no defense. But how about the facts? How long, for example, can a lender feign ignorance of the facts and collect on a mortgage loan after the underlying debt has been satisfied by a deed in lieu of foreclosure? The answer: As long as the borrower continues to pay, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. held recently in Martin v. American General Finance Inc., a case that aptly depicts the confusion resulting when a note and mortgage go their separate ways.

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When prayer alone doesn’t work, hire a lawyer (access required)

It’s been more than five years since Sedgefield Baptist Church first learned that a six-lane roadway might be passing through its sanctuary. That’s when the North Carolina Department of Transportation first approached the church on High Point Road in Greensboro and told its elders about plans to widen the road. The DOT offered $950,000 for the church to move on — fair market value, it said, according to its appraisal. The church, which had been there since the 1950s, said no thanks. The DOT moved on to other projects, but last year it returned with an updated appraisal and the news that the church would have to vacate by October 2011. This time the offer was $960,250.

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Gas-card creator wins $4 million from bank for defamation (access required)

Whatever happened to MyGallons? It’s the company that launched a pre-paid gas program in 2008 which allowed consumers to lock in gas prices at a going rate. It sounded like a great idea, but never really got off the ground. Company founder Steven Verona launched Philadelphia-based MyGallons in June 2008 to much fanfare, but then just as quickly had to pull back. A day after the launch, its payment processing network, U.S. Bank Voyager Fleet Systems Inc., disavowed any relationship with MyGallons, prompting the Better Business Bureau to give the company an “F” rating right off the bat. That news went viral, with internet, television and print reports questioning the merits of the MyGallons program and depicting Verona as a likely shyster.

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Unhappy client wins million-dollar judgment against his lawyer (access required)

When Jack Tuttle bought a tree-mulching machine for his land-clearing business in 2005, and had nothing but problems with it, he sought to return the machine and get his $300,000 back. He tried negotiating with the company, South Carolina-based Gyro-Trac, but to no avail, so he hired Charleston attorney Robert Lowe to help him. Three years later and on the eve of trial, Tuttle was still out his $300,000, plus an additional $665,000 he’d paid his attorney to get his case to that point. Tapped out after borrowing from family, mortgaging his house and maxing out his credit cards, Tuttle took the only step he thought he had left: He settled the case. Of the $700,000 settlement, Tuttle got $198,000 and Lowe got $261,000. The remaining $241,000 is likely uncollectible, since Gyro-Trac filed bankruptcy. Matt Yelverton (pictured) served as one Tuttle’s attorneys.

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Against the odds, nursing-home claim is rebuffed  (access required)

Trial attorneys relish a challenge. Whether it’s the sympathetic plaintiff, the unpopular client, the witness with a past, or the formidable adversary, challenges present opportunities to explore new theories, adopt different strategies and polish skills. And overcoming them makes a win all the sweeter. Rarely, though, do multiple challenges come packaged in a single case. For Raleigh lawyer Mike Hurley (pictured at right), that case arrived just before Thanksgiving last year, when he took over the defense of a wrongful death action against Britthaven Nursing Home in Chapel Hill, scheduled for trial in just six months.

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Manufacturer sidesteps million-dollar claim, wins countersuit (access required)

Sometimes intransigence gets you nothing, or so A.B. Mauri Foods, the maker of Fleischman’s Yeast and other baking products, may have learned recently in an arbitration held in Charlotte. In 2007, the company purchased an industrial rotary dryer from Cary-based Aeroglide Corp. for $428,850. Fleischman’s needed the dryer for its production of CalPro, a calcium propionate-based preservative used to increase the shelf life of baking goods. Production of CalPro crystals involves the drying of a sticky substance to a specified moisture content...

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