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New Jersey man thwarted in attempt to sue UK-based machinery maker (access required)

A U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down the same day as Goodyear suggests that the high court is seeking to clarify some blurry lines of jurisdiction. New Jersey attorney Jonathan W. Miller of the Philadelphia, Pa.-based Locks Law Firm, told Lawyers Weekly that the high court had not visited the jurisdictional issues raised in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-17-0659, 47 pp.) since its 1987 opinion in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). Miller wrote an amicus brief for the American Association of Justice in the Nicastro case.

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Supreme Court clarifies jurisdiction (access required)

In a ruling sure to reverberate far beyond North Carolina’s borders, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 27 that parents of two 13-year-old boys killed in a 2004 bus crash outside Paris cannot subject the foreign makers of a tire that failed to a wrongful death lawsuit brought in Onslow County Superior Court. The high court rejected what it called a “sprawling view of general jurisdiction… embraced by the North Carolina Court of Appeals,” which in 2009 upheld Onslow Superior Court Judge Gary E. Trawick’s denial of motions to dismiss brought by Goodyear Luxembourg Tires, SA, Goodyear Lastikleri T.A.S. and Goodyear Dunlop Tires France, SA.

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Pro-business or anti-lawyer? Lawyers’ groups muse about the impact of recent legislation.  (access required)

As the political tides turn in the North Carolina General Assembly, so does the nature of the legislation being passed. With the new Republican majority taking up various reforms as a way to make the state more business-friendly, lawyers — particularly plaintiff’s attorneys — ended up as collateral damage. “Lawyers are not in very good odor in the Legislature right now,” said recently appointed North Carolina Bar Association President Martin Brinkley. The big bills that passed over the last session are evidence of the anti-lawyer sentiment: A tort reform bill, a worker’s compensation bill and a medical malpractice bill all gave the average Joe less ground for a lawsuit.

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Double edge to workers’ comp changes  (access required)

Injured workers in North Carolina who were previously limited to just 300 weeks of workers’ compensation benefits will now be able to collect for up to 500 weeks. But the extra level of compensation comes at a price, said Greensboro attorney Dan Deuterman. The new law, passed by the 2011 Legislature and signed by Gov. Bev Perdue, increases from 300 to 500 the number of weeks for which an injured worker can collect partial disability benefits. But the law also caps total disability benefits at 500 weeks.

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Checks that don’t check out (access required)

In 22 years of practicing law, Charlotte residential real estate attorney R. Steven Smith had never had anything like it happen to him. Just before Memorial Day, Smith was representing a real estate agent in a closing for a waterfront home in the Charlotte area. The buyer was from Beijing, Smith was told, and moving to Charlotte to take a position in the information technology department of a local bank.

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A case for extra care: Malpractice suits require plenty of support and expense (access required)

The term frivolous lawsuit is tossed around a lot, but attorney Ben Smith of Price, Smith, Hargett, Petho and Anderson in Charlotte finds the phrase objectionable in his practice area. “The phrase doesn’t exist in medical malpractice, and I resent people who go in public and say it does,” Smith said. “There is a large entry price in any case. You have to have an expert review the records, and they have to give a preliminary opinion on the case based solely on the record. You don’t really get to the meat of the case until you take a deposition, and that comes much later.”

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In wake of Wal-Mart, lawyers worry about fate of class actions (access required)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny class action status to a group of women suing Wal-Mart for discrimination will roil the practice of employment law in North Carolina and across the country. “I think this is going to have a very sobering impact on discrimination-based class action cases,” said Corie Pauling, chairwoman of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Section. Many also expect the Wal-Mart ruling to be one that will get a lot of mileage from lawyers. “This is going to come up now every time you have a national client involved,” said M. Malissa Burnette, a specialist in employment and labor law with Callison Tighe & Robinson in Columbia, S.C. “For plaintiffs who attempt to do a lot of class actions, this is going to be a big deal.”

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Phillips, murderer of four, loses Supreme Court bid to avoid death penalty (access required)

Mario Phillips (pictured) will remain on North Carolina’s death row after what was the last state-level appeal of his 2007 first-degree murder convictions for killing four people during a robbery. The North Carolina Supreme Court, with Judge Barbara Jackson not participating, upheld the original conviction and rejected Phillips’ bid for a new trial, finding no errors in the lower court’s rulings. The Supreme Court first heard the appeal in February 2010.

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Shrinking Medicaid (access required)

Margaret Drew didn’t have time to speak to her lawyer. She was rushing out the door for an art class and a lunch date at the senior center high-rise where she lives in Charlotte. When her attorney, Elizabeth D. Edwards, dialed her up to check on Drew’s Medicaid appeals process, Drew was all apologies. “Sorry, I gotta go, honey,” Drew said over the phone. Then she was off. Drew, 63, uses an oxygen tank. She has had a heart attack, and arthritis makes it tough for her grip much. “When I drop things in my apartment, it looks like tornado went through it,” she said. Drew is still able to live relatively independently because a certain type of Medicaid assistance pays for a home-health aide to stop by and help her dress and bathe. But a June 1 change to Medicaid eligibility requirements threatens to curtail the autonomy of Drew and thousands of other disabled or elderly North Carolinians.

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ABA-approved (access required)

As Duke University waits for the American Bar Association to approve its brand-new master’s degree for judges, two recently established North Carolina law schools have received accreditation from the ABA. At meeting June 10 in Salt Lake City, the ABA gave a thumbs-up to the Charlotte School of Law and Elon University School of Law, in Greensboro.

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