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Large Verdicts & Settlements Report 2010 (access required)

Compiling the top verdicts and settlements reported to Lawyers Weekly during the past 12 months underscores how, in the realm of civil litigation, almost nothing is ever certain, and jury verdicts are not the end of a case. They are a new beginning. That is underscored by two of the top three verdicts and settlements reported to Lawyers Weekly in the past year. In both of those cases - one a $37 million verdict in a dispute over a contract to build plasma centers, the other a $12.887 million verdict in a pharmaceutical liability action - defendants have moved for JNOVs or new trials. Finality is less tenuous in four of the $10 million-plus cases on this year's roundup because they involved either settlements or arbitration awards.

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Long-dead NC jurists still ‘speak’ to court’s historian (access required)

You might think Danny Moody is alone at his desk, housed in a cavernous room on the first floor of the Supreme Court building. But you'd be wrong. He's surrounded by history. And history speaks to Danny Moody (pictured). Oil paintings of former justices silently look on. Books that speak of our state's legal past are stacked around him. The marble bust of a 19th-century jurist sits across the room, not far from an exhibit on the accomplishments of women that includes former Chief Justice Susie Sharp's license plate: "J-1."

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Non-compliance with arbitration rules ends Blackwater case (access required)

Failure to abide by arbitration rules has resulted in the termination of arbitration proceedings in a case involving the estates of four Blackwater contractors killed in Iraq in 2004. Termination of the arbitration proceedings, in turn, may have ended the legal cases brought by the administrator of the estates of the contractors, as well as competing actions brought by Blackwater against the administrator. "Contractual arbitration obligations have meaning and are legally enforceable," said Raleigh attorney Kirk G. Warner (pictured), who represented Blackwater.

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Seminar better way to learn leadership than ‘screwing up’ (access required)

Attention young lawyers: Time is running out to apply for a spot in the North Carolina Bar Association's inaugural Leadership Academy. Qualified attorneys have until Friday to submit applications to become one of 15 lawyers in the state who will participate in a six-session leadership development program, which is one of the signature projects NCBA President Gene Pridgen (pictured) outlined when he took the helm of the organization last June.

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HUD, Trust Title headaches throb in North Carolina (access required)

Raleigh resident Michael Pennington is mad at Trust Title. The real estate broker's client was under contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase a property in Durham. The contract was signed in August, and the closing was to occur no later than Nov. 10. Pennington's client remitted an earnest-money deposit of $1,000 to HUD's contractor, Reston, Va.-based Trust Title - but the deal never closed.

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Private college organization watches campus police case (access required)

It started out as a simple DWI arrest on the campus of Davidson College. Five years later, it's turned into a First Amendment case that could put into jeopardy the ability of many of North Carolina's private colleges and universities to have their own police forces. The case of State v. Yencer received coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education, considered the paper of record in the world of higher education. Private college and university campuses in other states "are watching it very closely," said Hope Williams (pictured), president of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, an advocacy group for the state's 36 private post-secondary schools.

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Ethics Committee grapples with pop-ups, Groupon and Google (access required)

Watch the pop-ups. That's the word from the N.C. State Bar's Ethics Committee, which is looking into the use of live-chat services on attorney websites - specifically, whether the use of a live-chat button would violate Rule 7.3(a), which provides that an attorney may not solicit business by "in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact." A staff opinion discussed at Thursday's Ethics Committee meeting says that it's fine for a lawyer to use a live-chat support service, the kind that typically features a button accompanied by "Click here to chat live online."

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Ruling: Trial courts may take judicial notice of customary rates (access required)

In what may be a first for North Carolina appellate courts, the Court of Appeals has held that trial courts weighing attorney's fee applications under G.S. § 50-13.6 may take judicial notice of "the customary hourly rates of local attorneys performing the same services and having the same experience." Writing for the court in Simpson v. Simpson, Judge Martha Geer cautioned that trial courts are not required to take judicial notice of customary hourly rates. Concord attorney James R. DeMay (pictured) said that the holding "brings North Carolina in line with what's been the rule of law in nearly every other state that has considered this issue."

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Firm outfits lounge to lift morale, build staff cohesiveness (access required)

Your eyes are fatigued from fluorescent lighting. Clients have been making tough demands all day long. You need to get away. Next stop, the No Work Zone. By month's end, that's where attorneys and staff at Smith Moore Leatherwood in Raleigh will be able to go in order to take a breather. The firm is in the process of converting an old supply room into an employee lounge replete with a sofa, rugs, TV, soft lighting from lamps, a computer and an aquarium. It's all part of an effort by an office group that is responsible for coming up with creative, out-of-the-box activities for lawyers and staff to do together.

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LegalZoom now partnering with lawyers and firms (access required)

LegalZoom has launched a partnership with lawyers and law firms that could make it the largest law firm in the United States, according to one observer. Florida attorney Richard Granat wrote in his e-lawyering blog on Jan. 5 that LegalZoom may be seeking to link "its marketing capabilities to a network of law firms that offer legal services under the LegalZoom brand." LegalZoom Vice President and General Counsel Chas Rampenthal (pictured) confirmed that LegalZoom is "testing concepts that would connect our marketing strength with a network of law firms."

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