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Author Archives: Paul Tharp, Staff Writer

Alleged defective trampoline bungee cord nets $450,000 (access required)

The plaintiff purchased in the summer of 2009 a Sportspower trampoline (manufactured in China) at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Cary. The plaintiff went underneath the trampoline to attach an accessory called a Flash Litezone, which was designed to be suspended underneath the trampoline by two bungee cords. The accessory was designed to light up when someone jumped on the trampoline.

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Where is your office, and why is it there? (access required)

Some lawyers like to be close to the courthouse; others like to be as far away as possible from a necktie. Some want the prestige of a tall building in the middle of a city's commercial district; others prefer the practicality of easy parking. A law firm's building and location declare something eloquent about the firm's mission. But they also deliver a less legal message, one of personality. "A lot of thought goes into your nest," Davidson attorney Bob McIntosh (pictured) said. Of his office space which is located in the old Davidson Cotton Mill he said, "I spend most of my time here, and I love being here."

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Sex offender gets no reduction in child support (access required)

A father said he couldn't afford to pay child support because he lost his job after being convicted of sexually abusing his daughter, but that excuse foundered because he should have foreseen that the abuse would lead to his job loss. The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that Michael Metz, who once made $18,867 a month as a nurse anesthetist, must pay $2,627 per month for support of his four children even though he insists his criminal record makes finding a job extremely difficult.

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House, Senate agree on ER medical malpractice cap (access required)

Both chambers of the North Carolina Legislature recently approved legislation that would limit liability for emergency room physician malpractice to $500,000 for a patient's death, disfigurement, permanent injury or loss of use of parts of the body. The bill, S33, does not cap noneconomic damages when a defendant acts "in reckless disregard of the rights of others," with gross negligence, fraud, malice or intentionally causes the death, disfigurement, permanent injury or loss of use of part of the body.

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Foreclosure practices and COA rulings spark debates, lawsuit threats (access required)

Home-mortgage lenders' paperwork problems are touching off a series of conflicts, from courtroom challenges over proving who really owns a home to arguments about whether people who took out mortgage loans should suddenly enjoy payment-free shelter. Even the North Carolina Court of Appeals appears conflicted, having issued two recent opinions on different sides in the banks-v.-borrowers dispute. In early May, the Court of Appeals joined a number of state and federal courts by challenging the so-called robo-signer issues plaguing foreclosures. In In re: Foreclosure of Gilbert, the court ruled in favor of homeowners challenging a foreclosure on the basis that the servicer couldn't prove it was the holder of the note.

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Legal malpractice checkup (access required)

Charles Putterman and Tommy Odom disagree on requiring attorneys to report whether they carry malpractice insurance, but both agree that attorneys should carry it. "Absolutely," Putterman, of Raleigh, said. Both lawyers have seen firsthand the harm clients can suffer as a result of malpractice, and both have represented clients suing uninsured lawyers. Dan Zureich, (pictured) president and CEO of North Carolina's largest insurer, Lawyers Mutual, said that because of unfavorable claims histories or because of their practice areas, not all attorneys are insurable.

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Does the Missouri Plan strip politics from the process or power from the people? (access required)

While the North Carolina Legislature wonders whether a massive change in how the state chooses judges is a good idea, John Johnston, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney, has no doubts. Johnston, president of the Missouri Bar Association, is a strong supporter of the judicial election system that bears his home state's name: the Missouri Plan. That's the kind of plan that reform-minded North Carolina lawyers like Charlotte attorney John Wester (pictured right) want to see their state adopt. On the other side, supporters of the status quo, like Raleigh attorney Robert Numbers (pictured left), say the Missouri-type plan would take power from the voters.

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Should NC trust voters to elect the best judges? (access required)

If the North Carolina Bar Association has its way, voters in 2012 will be presented with an opportunity to create a drastically new, and complex, system of selecting the state's judges. But some attorneys say North Carolina's current system is fine, and the power to select judges should be left where it is: in the hands of voters. The NCBA is pushing Senate Bill 458, which would establish the so-called Missouri Plan, a system that allows voters to either retain or reject sitting judges who are nominated by a commission and appointed by the governor.

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Judge takes setback case to the streets (access required)

A judge will decide as early as this week whether a Charlotte homeowner has to demolish a half-million dollar addition to her Queens Road home. Before deciding, Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell (left in photo) said he wanted to see the structure with his own eyes. "Seeing something in person does put a different perspective on it," Caldwell said last Tuesday morning while viewing the structure.

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FTC, Dental Board tussle may land in highest court (access required)

As the collision between the Federal Trade Commission and the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners unfolds in legal slow motion, Ron Haynes sells teeth-whitening supplies and insists he doesn't understand the fuss. It's a fuss that is taking two routes toward the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and appears bound for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Board of Dental Examiners says non-dentist proprietors of teeth-whitening kiosks, such as Haynes, are breaking the law by practicing dentistry without a license. A subsection of G.S. § 90-29(b) defines the practice of dentistry to include the removal of "stains, accretions or deposits from human teeth." But Haynes (pictured with employee Kate Law), who runs his Pro White kiosk in SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, told Lawyers Weekly that his employee doesn't remove stains from anyone's teeth. The kiosk merely supplies the materials and equipment for teeth-whitening.

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