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Author Archives: Fred Horlbeck

SC verdict for $327M (access required)

The record-setting $327 million verdict levied against the Ortho-McNeil-Janssen pharmaceutical company for violations of the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act is hardly small change, but it could have been a lot bigger. Like more than $2 billion bigger. The award, announced June 3, could have soared to more than $2.6 billion, had the Spartanburg judge who set damages decided to hit Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, with maximum penalties under the UTPA for violations involving the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. "We feel very good about it, obviously," said lawyer Don Coggins of the Spartanburg firm of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, one of several private firms that represented the state.

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Pressured by Chief Justice Toal, courts slim down DUI dockets (access required)

The DUI caseload statewide has dropped significantly in the two months since the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered county magistrates and municipal courts to give top priority to clearing such cases from their dockets. Responding to a March 21 order from the state's chief justice, the state's court system has accelerated the process of resolving cases of driving under the influence as well as cases of driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration, known as DUACs.

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Doctor misses cancer report; patient dies (access required)

When Franklin Scott Jr. and his wife, Lesie Ann Scott, walked into the doctor's office in August 2009 to review Franklin's second chest X-ray in a year, neither knew that his first chest X-ray had detected cancer 12 months before. Nor did the Williamsburg County couple expect the doctor, after looking at the latest scan, to walk out on them without warning or explanation, leaving them sitting in his office without a clue as to where he had gone or why he had left. Nor did they know that Franklin Scott that would die of cancer before the year was out. Summerville lawyer Steven Goldberg, David Yarborough (pictured) and William Applegate, both of Mount Pleasant, represented the plaintiff in the case.

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‘Objection’ objection rejected (access required)

Robert Muckenfuss, a defense attorney, was sure he had said all the words he needed to register his objection, but for a while it appeared he left out one. So Muckenfuss's client, Najjar De'Breece Byers, was found guilty of armed robbery and criminal conspiracy in York County, even though Muckenfuss protested that the only incriminating testimony was hearsay. And when the Court of Appeals ruled that Muckenfuss erred by not proclaiming "Objection" before he moved to strike what he called hearsay, he took the case to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

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4th Circuit reinstates visiting attorneys (access required)

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated an order in which a federal district judge in South Carolina revoked temporary admission for out-of-state lawyers who had asked the judge to recuse himself. In a case revolving around three Florida lawyers who asserted claims of judicial bias against U.S. Senior District Judge G. Ross Anderson, the lawyers won in Belue v. Leventhal (South Carolina Lawyers Weekly No. 001-092-11, 23 pages). But neither the lawyers nor Anderson won any plaudits in the unanimous ruling by a panel of three 4th Circuit judges.

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Bar suspends 29 over CLEs (access required)

Every spring, more than 13,000 Palmetto State lawyers can congratulate themselves on meeting all the state requirements for continuing legal education. And every spring the March 1 deadline that was once 12 months in the future creeps up on lawyers, who fail to complete their requirements and then miss a March 31 deadline to make amends. As of April 1, they're on automatic suspension from the practice of law for violating Rule 419 of the S.C. Appellate Court Rules, but, after missing yet another deadline, two or three dozen find their names on the South Carolina Supreme Court's website.

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Bar to critics of lawyers: Prepare for counterattacks (access required)

Warning to those, including prominent state politicians, who think bashing lawyers is politically profitable: The South Carolina Bar is about to start answering back, and vigorously. Newly seated Bar President Marvin Quattlebaum (pictured with Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal) said combating lawyer-bashing is one of the top three priorities of his year-long term. The Bar is forming a task force to tackle the problem. The task force will attempt to clean up the image of lawyers in the wake of political rhetoric, including recent comments by Gov. Nikki Haley, that Bar leaders say has hurt the legal profession.

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Court clears shooter in home-is-castle case; AG skeptical (access required)

The state fought hard to nail down the murder indictment, giving the trial court plenty of evidence in addition to the autopsy report on the victim, who died of a gunshot wound to his face. There were the witness statements. The photos and video of the crime scene. And the recording of the 911 call during the shooting. But, despite everything the state could throw at him, defendant Gregory Duncan was immune to prosecution - and properly so, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled. Robert M. Dudek (pictured) of the S.C. Commission on Indigent Defense in Columbia, represented Duncan.

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State loses ownership of marsh islands (access required)

The South Carolina Supreme Court has removed a roadblock that for years has thwarted the placing of docks or other structures on the state's marsh islands. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled in favor of a woman who sued to quiet title to a Beaufort County island. The decision overturned rulings under which the state of South Carolina asserted presumptive ownership of thousands of islands along the state's coast.

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Regions Bank, developer settle dispute over building loan (access required)

A foreclosure action in which the parties traded claims and counterclaims over alleged improprieties in the disbursement of a $2.4 million loan for a construction project in Clemson has concluded with a settlement. Regions Bank agreed to reduce the balance owed on the loan to about $1,136,000, down from the almost $2 million the bank originally claimed as due on the loan, lawyers for the defendants said.

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