Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

John Edwards, Rielle Hunter, and Elizabeth Edwards

I have no idea if the allegations that former presidential candidate John Edwards has a love-child with Rielle Hunter are true–though his actions seem pretty damning.

But let me be the first to point out that, if the allegations are true, Elizabeth Edwards can take advantage of North Carolina’s unusual tort law to sue Hunter for alienation of affection. When we last looked at the state of affairs in North Carolina in 2006, there were 200 such suits a year, with some verdicts in the six and seven digits. Of course, Mrs. Edwards would need a trial lawyer willing to take on her husband first.

Efforts to abolish the tort in the state have not been successful, though it is worth noting the fact that several dozen states have abolished heartbalm statutes without anyone suggesting that this tort reform is constitutionally problematic.

Update: Edwards persuades me that the story might be true when he gives a lawyerly non-denial denial filled with negative pregnants: “That’s tabloid trash. They’re full of lies. I’m here to talk about helping people.”  Someone needs to ask a more targeted question of a purported candidate for vice president or attorney general.

“Cancel his subscription” wasn’t enough

So that this man can make his point, North Carolina taxpayers — and people with legitimate cases in that state’s courts — are just going to have to put up with a little extra burden:

A News & Observer subscriber is suing the newspaper for cutting staff and the size of the paper.

Keith Hempstead, a Durham lawyer, filed the suit last month in Wake Superior Court. He says he renewed his subscription in May just before the paper announced on June 16 the layoffs of 70 staff members and cuts in news pages.

The paper, he says, is now not worth what he signed up for and therefore the cuts breached the paper’s contract with him….

In a phone interview today, Hempstead, 42, said he could cancel his subscription but filed the suit to make a point.

Hempstead, a former reporter himself at a different paper who says he “loves” the N&O, has duly gotten a fair bit of publicity, certainly more than if he had just sent out a complaining press release or something. (Leah Friedman, “N&O subscriber sues the paper for cutting staff”, News & Observer, Jul. 10).

Jurors’ trauma

First you get hauled in by compulsory process, then you start having to look at the emergency room photos: “North Carolina is considering allowing jurors access to counseling services to cope with post-traumatic stress that can occur after exposure to graphic images and disturbing testimony during a trial.” (Molly McDonough, “Jurors ‘Haunted’ By Time in Courtroom,” ABA Journal, May 16).

The Hess Kennedy “Legal Debt Center” scheme

According to a lawsuit filed by Chase, two Coral Springs attorneys are scamming their clients by promising to eliminate their debts, and then diverting debt payments for legal fees to file meritless lawsuits challenging credit card debts. The attorneys general of Florida, North Carolina, and West Virginia are also involved, and the Florida bar has moved to suspend the license of Laura Hess. “Defendants’ ulterior goals are to extract fees from card members who should be paying the money to Chase to satisfy their debts and to maliciously harass Chase in an improper (albeit unsuccessful) attempt to coerce the elimination of their clients’ legitimate debts.” (Bud Newman, “Chase Bank Accuses Florida Law Firms of Running Debt-Relief Scam”, Daily Business Review, Mar. 6).

Update: See also Mar. 6 Business Week; on-line at the self-reported Rip-Off Report; and WATE (Tennessee), Apr. 2. “‘The programs typically require financially strapped consumers to pay fees up front, so they make money whether or not any useful services are performed,’ says Philip Lehman, an assistant attorney general in North Carolina.”

Don’t IX

Another bunch of things not to do if you’re a member of the legal profession.

  • Don’t get caught pursuing forged fen-phen claims. (Robert Arledge, Vicksburg, Mississippi, sentenced to 6.5 years, the only lawyer to date to be sentenced in a much larger fen-phen scandal.) [ABA Journal]
  • Don’t try to dissuade a witness from testifying at a deposition. (Cleary Gottlieb, which said it would appeal the judge’s order of sanctions.) [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Don’t inflate your GPA and include fake awards on your resume. (Gregory Haun, DC, recommended for suspension, resigned his six-digit BigLaw associate job.) [Legal Times]
  • Don’t end your jury service by casting a vote to break a deadlock and then sign a statement drafted by the plaintiffs’ attorney asking for a new trial saying that you did so so you can return to work. (California bar has recommended disbarment for Francis Fahy.) [ABA Journal; Recorder ($); ($)]
  • Don’t steal money from your clients by forging their signatures on insurance company releases to get their settlement money. (Richard Boder, New York, caught as part of a larger scandal involving the illegal use of paid runners to bribe hospital employees about auto accident injuries, sentenced to a year in prison.) [NY Law Journal]
  • Don’t read Maxim in the courtroom. (Todd Paris, held in contempt by North Carolina judge.) [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Don’t have an affair with a judge you’re practicing in front of, or vice versa. (Federal Way, WA, Municipal Court judge Colleen Hartl resigned after bragging about an affair with public defender Sean Cecil, who still has 5 Avvo stars for professional conduct, but has been the subject of a formal complaint to the bar.) [AP/Post-Intelligencer; Federal Way News; Lat]

(Earlier: Nov. 5, etc.)

Frank on NY Times on Edwards and Romney

To the Editor:

Re “Two Candidates, Two Fortunes, Two Distinct Views of Wealth” (front page, Dec. 23):

There is a critical distinction between Mitt Romney’s and John Edwards’s wealth. Mr. Romney, as a businessman, made investments that created wealth. Mr. Edwards, as a trial lawyer, made his money through lawsuits that merely took from one pocket and gave to another, and probably destroyed wealth in the process. (Mr. Edwards’s multimillion-dollar medical malpractice verdicts almost certainly hurt the quality of health care in North Carolina.)

Little wonder that Mr. Romney understands that to improve the economy, one needs to expand the pie, while Mr. Edwards’s policy proposals focus entirely on the redistribution of the existing pie without thought for the future adverse consequences to the size of the pie.

Theodore H. Frank
Washington, Dec. 23, 2007
The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

More on the question of pie-sharing and pie-growing at SSRN. More on John Edwards’s trial-lawyer record: the Valerie Lakey trial; Edwards on the failure to warn; Edwards on stacking juries; and Edwards’s cerebral palsy cases (also: April 11 and links therein).

Buys submerged land, sues to have it drained

Curious goings-on in North Carolina:

Kristin Wallace bought some very wet land as an investment. Eight acres of it, all underneath Lake Lynn.

The Cary woman bought the land for $12,500 last year at a public auction of property with delinquent taxes. Now she is suing to try to force the city of Raleigh or Wake County to buy the soggy land from her or drain it.

“It’s extremely valuable to me,” Wallace said, “dry.”

City and county officials say Wallace, who started investing in real estate less than two years ago, knew the land was lake bottom when she bought it, something she doesn’t dispute.

“It’s bought as is,” said Shelley Eason with the County Attorney’s Office.

(Sarah Ovaska, “Pull the plug on Lake Lynn, suit demands”, Raleigh News & Observer, Dec. 6).

Ordeal not over

Dwayne Dail spent 18 years in a North Carolina prison on false charges of rape. When he got out based on new DNA findings, his ex-girlfriend promptly sued him for child support. (Mandy Locke, “Dail, expecting $360,000, sued by ex-girlfriend”, Raleigh News & Observer, Oct. 24; “Wrongly Convicted Man Sued for Child Support”, WRAL, Oct. 23; “Prosecutor: Wrongful Conviction Is ‘Nightmare'”, WRAL, Aug. 29; “Dwayne Dail responds to lawsuit”, Goldsboro News-Argus, Oct. 28).

Tug-of-war: a thought on the failure to warn

Gruesome life-changing injuries from tug-of-war matches (e.g., Colorado, Oct. 12; North Carolina, 2003; Taiwan, 1997; Tennessee, 1995) are rare, but not unheard of. Safety measures on tug-of-war ropes are possible. Do everyday ropes, used for a variety of purposes other than tug-of-war, need warning labels? Do previous injuries put the Colorado school district on notice: i.e., does a single publicized injury now make every school district effectively strictly liable if future injuries occur? What happens when tug-warriors disregard safety rules because the obvious risk of wrapping rope around a body part is not clearly spelled out? (Keep in mind in the Stella Liebeck McDonald’s coffee case, the plaintiffs complained that the coffee-cup warning that the beverage was hot wasn’t clear enough about the risk of injury.)

September 18 roundup