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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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Carolina cities to get money back from drug supplier  (access required)

Municipalities in North Carolina and South Carolina may be in line for a cash infusion from an unexpected source: healthcare services giant McKesson Corp. Under the terms of a proposed class action settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Oct. 26, California-based McKesson will pay $82 million to settle claims by local municipalities that they overpaid for certain brand name prescription drugs through their employee health insurance plans. Goldsboro and Columbia, S.C., are two of the six lead plaintiffs in the case, In Re McKesson Governmental Entities Average Wholesale Price Litigation. “We certainly know that there will be other North Carolina and South Carolina municipalities as part of the class,” said James L. Ward Jr. of Charleston’s Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman. Richardson Patrick was appointed as co-lead counsel by the court in March 2009.

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“Egregious” effort to hide documents leads to dismissal of case (access required)

The end of October was approaching, and South Carolina Business Court Judge Edward R. Miller had had enough. One month before the trial in Eastern Business Forms v. Bradley F. Davin was scheduled to begin, and after 41 months of incessant battling among attorneys — including 10 separate hearings about a discovery dispute, the use of a forensic computer expert and two hearings on a motion for sanctions — Miller resorted to an oft-threatened but rarely imposed sanction: He dismissed a complaint with prejudice because of the plaintiff’s discovery abuses. “This case involves the longest and most excruciating discovery dispute ever encountered by this Court,” Miller wrote in his Oct. 25 order. “The squandering of large amounts of time, money and energy could have been avoided if EBF had properly responded to basic discovery requests.”

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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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