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Adultery case gets no foothold in North Carolina (access required)

A love triangle between South Carolina residents could end up clarifying an apparent gray area regarding jurisdictional rights in North Carolina. The case involves a jilted husband who sued a former friend for sleeping with his wife and ruining his marriage. The husband sought damages under claims for alienation of affection and criminal conversation. North Carolina is just one of seven states that still allow residents to sue home-wreckers, and the suits sometimes result in multi-million-dollar verdicts. South Carolina has abolished the torts. John F. Morrow Sr. and Kathryn F. Fowler (pictured) of Morrow Porter Vermitsky & Fowler in Winston-Salem represented the defendant.

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Pitfalls of ‘portability’: Estate tax law gives spouses extra protection, but has drawbacks  (access required)

The new estate tax “portability” provision, which allows surviving spouses to benefit from the unused exclusion from their spouse’s estate, was a welcome part of the federal tax law enacted late last year for estate planning attorneys and their clients. The provision eliminates the need for spouses to retitle property, create trusts or use other estate planning maneuvers to protect property from incurring additional tax liability after the death of a spouse “Having portability in the law is more equitable …, even though it may cut down on my work a bit,” said Jeramie J. Fortenberry of Fortenberry Legal, a Gulfport, Miss.-based boutique law firm focused on probate and estate planning.

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Trustees of James Brown’s estate don’t feel good about settlement  (access required)

COLUMBIA (AP) — Trustees who say they were unjustly removed from the charitable trust of the late soul singer James Brown urged South Carolina’s Supreme Court last week to strike down the estate settlement. The justices questioned an attorney for former trustees Adele Pope and Robert Buchanan about their contention that then-South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster didn’t have the authority to push through the deal that ended years of fighting among Brown’s heirs. Pope and Buchanan asked that the settlement be reorganized by a lower court. The dispute began shortly after the Godfather of Soul died of heart failure on Christmas Day 2006 at age 73. The performer’s death touched off years of bizarre headlines, beginning with his widow Tomi Rae Hynie being locked out of his 60-acre estate and photographers capturing her sobbing and shaking its iron gates, begging to be let in.

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Lawyers play careful role in Occupy movements (access required)

Lawyers are playing integral roles in the burgeoning Occupy movements around the Carolinas, and their participation is becoming even more important as tensions intensify between government officials and protesters. In Raleigh, a young lawyer is in the midst of an uphill policy battle with state officials who refuse to let protesters hold long-term demonstrations on the capitol grounds. A law school professor in Greensboro trains people to act as legal witnesses for the local occupiers just in case they have police trouble. In Charleston, a seasoned attorney camps with protesters and helps them build a rapport with city representatives. “They’ve kind of been our unofficial legal lifelines in giving us the advice and support we need,” said Stacie J. Borrello, a freelance writer and editor who helped organize Occupy Raleigh. “It’s given us a sense of security just to know that they were there for us.”

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Move to electronic medical records brings side effects (access required)

Medical malpractice lawyers are already experiencing a host of side effects related to the health care industry’s ongoing switch from paper to computerized medical records. The federal government is trying to spur on the technological leap by offering billions of dollars in incentives to doctors and hospitals. Health care providers who resist the change will face financial penalties on Medicare payments beginning in 2015. Electronic records are supposed to be more reliable and efficient than their paper predecessors. But one of the most common complaints among med-mal attorneys is that e-records are tough to decipher because the files are large and badly organized. What used to be a 200-page patient chart on paper has swelled to more than 1,000 pages when it’s printed out from its computerized form, said Asheville med-mal defense lawyer Isaac N. Northup of Northup McConnell & Sizemore. Worse yet, patient information is often scattered throughout the file.

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Electronic prescription records widely available, even to some police (access required)

Think that Xanax prescription is a secret you share with only your doctor and your local pharmacist? Think again. The state knows, too. If you forget to include all your prescriptions on a patient intake form, don’t worry. The doctor can just log on to the state’s prescription monitoring program database, enter your name, and up pops a list of prescriptions dispensed to you in-state for the last several years. Who else has access that information? Other doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and, yes, certain members of law enforcement.

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Squatters use ‘adverse possession’ law to claim homes   (access required)

Crest Properties had just bought a 3,100-square-foot house at 1614 Meadowlark Landing Drive in the Lawing Pond neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C. The subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Timberstone Homes had planned to renovate, and then sell, the 4-year-old home. With the home-construction industry suffering, Crest has been buying up unsold homes of other builders and fixing them up. The Meadowlark house was one of those purchases, and, after Crest bought it, the company gave the key to a contractor to start renovations. But when the contractor went to the home on August 30, an odd thing happened: The key wouldn’t work, said Curtis McCurry, division manager for the Charlotte office of Timberstone.

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Failure to report abuse results in $25M award   (access required)

A Fayetteville jury has awarded almost $25 million to a father and son against a hospital the plaintiffs claimed should have reported signs of child abuse prior to a serious subsequent injury. Six-year-old Ajamu “Man Man” Gaines Jr. arrived at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville with a two broken bones in his arm in April 2003. An x-ray revealed an additional rib fracture, and his mother offered a questionable explanation for his injuries, but hospital employees failed to take action, said Cale Conley, a partner at Conley Griggs in Atlanta who represented the plaintiffs. Gaines’ injuries were “textbook” signs of abuse, Conley asserted, and hospital staff should have reported the situation to law enforcement as well as to the Department of Social Services.

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Speaking with jurors post-trial can yield invaluable lessons  (access required)

After spending the length of a trial staring at a group of strangers who hold the fate of a client in their hands, the last thing lawyers may want to do is sit down and chat with the jury. But getting jurors’ take on the trial – from the persuasiveness of a closing argument to the credence of testimony – can be invaluable. Speaking to a jury allows an attorney to “learn what happened during deliberations, how they perceived your witnesses, how they perceived you and your presentation abilities, whether your strategies and themes came across and what was really crucial,” said Richard Gabriel, president of Decision Analysis, a national trial consulting company in Los Angeles and president of the American Society of Trial Consultants Foundation.

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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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