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Court nixes homeowners’ association bid to buy golf courses  (access required)

A Craven County homeowners’ association cannot force its members to foot the bill for the purchase of two golf courses and other recreational amenities, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled. The Fairfield Harbour Property Owners Association in New Bern wanted to use the annual assessments it collects from members to buy the amenities. But several homeowners objected to the proposal, arguing that the association’s declarations barred it from using assessments to finance the deal.

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Alienation of affection not just a Carolina thing   (access required)

A Mississippi woman could not explain away 107 cell phone calls to a married man when she tried to set aside an $88,000 jury verdict against her in an alienation-of-affection lawsuit. Alienation of affection as a cause of action is a relic of the past in most states. Of the seven states that still recognize the tort, only in North Carolina and Mississippi do you see the victims of extramarital affairs pursuing such claims with any frequency. In 2009, Melissa Simmons discovered first-hand that Mississippi’s alienation-of-affection law still has some teeth when a Lowndes County Circuit Court jury awarded $88,000 in a lawsuit brought by Chrissy Strickland.

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Water authority wanted a do-over on property seizure, but didn’t get it  (access required)

There are no refunds in condemnation actions. That’s the hard lesson the Onslow County Water and Sewer Authority learned recently when it tried to back out of a deal for some 350 acres needed to expand a wastewater treatment facility. In April 2008, the authority condemned four tracts of land just outside of Richlands, owned by the Rogers and Boggs families. The authority appraised the tracts as farmland, and deposited $1.9 million as just compensation. Shortly after, the owners discovered that two of the tracts had significant limestone deposits underneath, and brought in a geologist to take samples.

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Court tells DOT to take whole parcel, not just a portion of land  (access required)

Seventeen years after the state Department of Transportation first identified her property as in the path of Raleigh’s 540 Outer Loop extension, Blanche Morris will finally get her just compensation. Morris, now almost 90, lived in the same farmhouse on Jenks Road in Apex for more than 60 years and moved out last year, after the Turnpike Authority filed its condemnation action and deposited $1,216,500. At that time, the authority took only a 27-acre parcel that fronted Jenks Road and through which the roadway passed directly.

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Judge decides plaintiff’s long reply is short on substance  (access required)

Flamboyant speedboat racer Reginald M. Fountain Jr. believes he is plagued by untrustworthy “buffoons” who took over his distressed boat-building company and selfishly refused to return his racing trophies. Fountain, who has a penchant for dressing like Elvis, also sees himself as the powerboat world’s equivalent to swimmer Michael Phelps or NBA star LeBron James. And he has more – much more – to say about these matters. It’s all compiled in a book-length filing in N.C. Business Court, where he is suing his former company.

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Decline of the garage inventor?   (access required)

Over the next two years, the patent reform bill President Barack Obama signed into law in September will overhaul basic legal tenets that go back to the Founding Fathers and have shaped U.S. technological innovation for more than 200 years. Patents, along with copyrights, are singled out in the U.S. Constitution as deserving of special protection. So even though rules that govern the transformation of ideas into intellectual property have changed from time to time — the last significant alteration was in 1952 — U.S. patent ownership has always centered on the inventor.

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Annexation debate focuses on ‘cities first’ philosophy  (access required)

Lawyers for Wilmington and four other North Carolina cities challenging the constitutionality of new provisions of the state’s annexation laws are due back in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday, when they will ask Special Superior Court Judge William Pittman to block enforcement of the new laws pending a hearing and ruling on their claims. While the challenge is based on a specific legal question – whether only property owners should have a say in a proposed annexation – there’s a larger play here. The new provisions threaten to upend North Carolina’s longstanding policy of putting the financial health of its cities ahead of the wishes of property owners, and the pending court case is the venue in which that underlying philosophical tension will be exposed.

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Two years and thousands of dollars later, dental woes persisted   (access required)

In January 2007, when Teresa Henson first checked in as a patient of dentist Robert Labusohr, she already had a mouthful of problems. Almost two years and $16,000 later, those problems had only multiplied. “This was a single mom who saved her money to go into this dentist’s office, to the tune of $16,000 and a hole in her mouth,” said her attorney Jodee Sparkman Larcade of Raleigh’s Larcade & Heiskell. After five days of trial in November, a jury awarded Henson $200,000 in damages on her dental malpractice claims.

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U.S. Supreme Court hears case involving alleged kickbacks from title insurers  (access required)

At oral arguments two weeks ago, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed skeptical of a homeowner’s claim that a kickback scheme violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act without showing any actual injury was suffered. In First American Financial Corp v. Edwards, plaintiff Denise Edwards purchased a home in Ohio. In the transaction, her settlement agent referred her title insurance to First American Title. Edwards claims that her settlement agent was part of a network of individual title companies that had entered into exclusive referral agreements with First American that involved kickbacks that violated RESPA.

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Even Supreme Court stumped by telemarketing abuse law  (access required)

The U.S. Supreme Court last week tried to decipher the strange wording of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to determine if plaintiffs can sue in federal court rather than state court. The act prohibits certain abusive telephone and fax-related practices such as robo-calling, sending unsolicited faxes and making calls using prerecorded messages. The law provides several government enforcement mechanisms as well as a private right of action for citizens, who may seek $500 per violation and treble damages for willful conduct. The act states that such actions “may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a state, [be brought] in an appropriate court of that state.”

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