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Legal battle between Charlotte neighbors ends with odd twist  (access required)

After much legal wrangling in trial and appellate courts, a lawsuit between neighbors in an affluent Charlotte neighborhood has reached an unusual disposition that will benefit college students. At the center of the suit is a $500,000 addition to a million-dollar home in Myers Park. The addition violates the neighborhood’s setback restrictions, prompting a couple living two doors down from the owner of the remodeled home to sue to have the structure razed. But the addition can stay, as long as the homeowner establishes a $50,000 scholarship fund at Queens University of Charlotte, a historic liberal arts school in Myers Park, Superior Court Judge Jesse B. Caldwell ruled Nov. 15.

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Judge scolds woman for suing ex-husband over family business   (access required)

A North Carolina Business Court judge has rebuked a woman for filing a flimsy lawsuit against her former husband – dismissing the suit and ordering her to fork over more than $20,000 in legal costs to her one-time spouse. Judge John R. Jolly Jr. wrote in a Nov. 22 decision that Jane N. Sutton’s derivative action against her ex-husband was “seriously deficient and subject to dismissal on several grounds.” The most glaring problem: Sutton filed the suit on behalf of Carl L. Sutton Jr.’s tree cutting business, after she had agreed to give up her interest in the company as part of a separation settlement. To file a shareholder’s derivative action, the plaintiff has to be an actual shareholder.

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Federal civil trials teeter on the edge of extinction  (access required)

In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2010, only one civil jury trial took place in federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. That wasn’t because of a lack of cases. In fact, there were plenty — 1,780 cases were pending during that time period. The Middle District fared a little better, with four civil jury trials. The Western District saw nine civil jury trials in that period. South Carolina thrived, in relative terms, with 46 civil jury trials.

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ADA claimants find courts less friendly these days  (access required)

It’s bad enough for Charlotte’s commercial real estate industry. Lenders aren’t lending. Vacancies are still high. And then there’s the ongoing problem of lawsuits alleging that shopping centers, office buildings and industrial parks are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. “It is troubling because some folks out of Florida, usually Miami or Fort Lauderdale, come up and file a lawsuit claiming their rights under the ADA have been violated,” said John Bowers, a lawyer for Charlotte law firm Horack Talley. Bowers (pictured) is among attorneys who have been hired to defend two clients in the Charlotte area dealing with ADA lawsuits.

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NC-based institute to take leadership role in forensics technology (access required)

Help is on the way as North Carolina’s embattled state crime lab seeks to put more science into its forensic science. Under scrutiny for forensic errors and misconduct, the state crime lab is under new leadership and is overhauling its policies and procedures, and undergoing legal and scientific reviews. By 2012, the lab should gain two accreditations that are recognized by the academic community and most of its forensic scientists should have their skills tested and externally certified, said George McLeod, who as head of the State Bureau of Investigations oversees the crime lab. “We want to demonstrate that we are committed to the pursuit of justice,” McLeod said.

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The Achilles heel of e-records (access required)

In a decision likely to add to the legal woes of beleaguered brokerage firm Morgan Keegan, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the state’s Business Court that the firm had failed to establish the existence of an investor’s arbitration agreement. As a result, and barring a reversal on further appeal, the case will proceed to a jury trial. The decision in Capps v. Blondeau is significant for other Morgan Keegan investors, who have largely had to confine their claims to arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), with mixed results. It may also have larger implications as it calls into question Morgan Keegan’s record-keeping and document retention practices – which may be common at other brokerage firms.

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Landlord not to blame for trailer-park brawl (access required)

The owner of a mobile home park cannot be held liable for a crazed tenant who set fire to a neighbor during a brawl in Gastonia, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled. The burn victim, Daniel L. Davenport, argued in a lawsuit that the park owner knew or should have known that his attacker was dangerous and had a lengthy criminal record, but still allowed the man to live on the property. The park owner, Henry Moore, contended that Davenport had contributed to his injuries by choosing to fight with Tony A. Herrin (pictured), the man who lit him on fire. Moore also asserted that Davenport had failed to prove an actionable negligence claim.

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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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Roll-your-own cigarette shops come under legal scrutiny (access required)

NEW YORK (AP) — There is no place in the U.S. more expensive to smoke than New York City, where the taxes alone will set you back $5.85 per pack. Yet, addicts who visit Island Smokes, a “roll-your-own” cigarette shop in Chinatown, can walk out with an entire 10-pack carton for under $40, thanks to a yawning tax loophole that officials in several states are now trying to close. The store is one of a growing number around the country that have come under fire over their use of high-speed cigarette rolling machines that function as miniature factories, and can package loose tobacco and rolling papers into neatly formed cigarettes, sometimes in just a few minutes.

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Occupy movement a practice run for next year’s Dem convention (access required)

From the SWAT team raid on protesters in Chapel Hill, N.C., to the sudden crackdown at the State House grounds in Columbia, S.C., to violent riots in California and the clearing of campers at the epicenter of the movement in New York City, the Occupy protest and the government’s pushback is intensifying. Some believe the protests are a preseason tune-up for next year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and the Republican National Convention in Tampa. They expect the already-heated Occupy action to be replicated on a much larger scale during the conventions.

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