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The term of the century?  (access required)

This U.S. Supreme Court term has all the makings of a blockbuster, with issues such as the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law, the ability of states to pass tough immigration enforcement laws and same-sex marriage rights all set to fall squarely at the Court’s doorstep. And those are just the cases that have not officially been added to the Court’s docket – yet.

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Company fails in bid to have default judgment set aside (access required)

The S.C. Supreme Court has upheld the rejection of a company’s effort to set aside a judgment because the company failed to present what the court called “a meritorious defense” when it intervened in a case in 2005. The company, New Prime, Inc., intervened in a lawsuit brought by Ann and Steve McClurg against New Prime employee Harrell Wayne Deaton. Deaton was driving New Prime’s truck when he allegedly caused an accident in 2002 that injured Ann McClurg. Deaton never responded to the McClurgs’ lawsuit. Faced with possibly having to pay an $800,000 default judgment the McClurgs won in the suit, New Prime moved to set aside the judgment. The company argued that it was never informed of the lawsuit by the McClurgs’ lawyer, Don Moorhead (pictured) of Greenville, and didn’t find out about it until after the judgment had been entered against Deaton. Greenville County Circuit Court Judge Edward W. Miller allowed New Prime to intervene in the case, but he denied New Prime’s motion to set aside the default judgment because it failed to raise a meritorious defense.

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Little guy beats big chain over “Firehouse” trademark

Your choices for lunch: Firehouse Subs or Calli Baker’s Firehouse Bar & Grill. You’ll find them on the same stretch of N. Kings Highway north of Myrtle Beach. Actually you’ll find two Firehouse Subs – one six miles north of Calli Baker’s and one six miles to the south – says Calli Baker’s owner Heath Scurfield. In homage to his profession, Scurfield, a firefighter, changed Calli Baker’s to a “Firehouse,” dropping the old “Roadhouse” moniker after he purchased the grill in 2005. He says he’s been going to work at a firehouse his entire working life. Now he works at two of them. After squaring off in federal court against Firehouse Restaurant Group, the group that owns Firehouse Subs, Scurfield can keep “Firehouse” in his grill’s name – at least for now.

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Man can proceed with STD claim against neighbor (access required)

A Chapel Hill, N.C., man can proceed with an action against his former neighbor for negligently infecting him with a sexually transmitted disease by having an affair with his wife, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled. It is the first time a North Carolina appellate court has recognized a cause of action for the indirect transmission of a venereal disease. Orange County Superior Court Judge Carl R. Fox dismissed the negligent transmission claim last October, but the man, Joseph Carsanaro, appealed. At least four other states recognize the cause of action, according to Carsanaro’s lawyer, Nathaniel Smith (pictured) of Chapel Hill.

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Fishing-lure litigation catching on in SC  (access required)

Something’s fishy about a big chunk of the patent infringement cases floating around in South Carolina’s U.S. District Court. Only 11 patent disputes have been brought this year in the Palmetto State. But three of the suits, nearly 30 percent of the total filings, involve the design of fishing lures. A fourth lure patent case that was filed here last year was resolved earlier this summer. “It struck me as sort of a hoot to realize a few months ago that four of the state’s pending patent cases dealt with fishing lures,” said Timothy D. St. Clair (pictured), the attorney behind the bulk of the lure litigation.

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Accused robber awarded $50K for malicious prosecution  (access required)

What blew Mark Peper’s mind about the position the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office took in the civil case brought against it by Jeffrey Knowles was its contention that Knowles was the man who had robbed a KFC manager of $800 on Sept. 21, 2009 – even though Knowles had proven otherwise. Sheriff’s officials continued to believe Knowles had gotten away with a crime. “It was still their position that they had gotten the right guy,” Peper said. “I think if they had admitted they made a mistake and said they were sorry, the jury wouldn’t have popped them.” Peper (pictured) said the sheriff’s office maintained that it had done nothing wrong in arresting Knowles, despite the fact that Knowles was able to produce several alibi witnesses and a receipt showing he was nowhere near the KFC when the robbery occurred. The jury found that the prosecution of Knowles had been malicious and awarded him $50,000 in damages.

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Bank’s time is money for plaintiff  (access required)

The S.C. Court of Appeals has upheld a $1.5 million punitive damages award against Bank of America after a Williamsburg County jury found the bank negligent for allowing a boy’s aunt to misappropriate life insurance proceeds from his father’s estate. Cody Powell stood to receive $252,000 in life insurance proceeds after his father’s death in 2000. The money was to be held in a conservatorship account overseen by his aunt and uncle until Cody reached age 18. But Cody’s aunt, Karen P. Unrue, transferred money from an account she set up for Cody at Bank of America into her personal checking account. Cody’s guardian brought suit on his behalf against Unrue, his uncle Travis Powell and Bank of America. A Williamsburg County jury awarded Cody $205,735 in actual damages and $1,583,000 in punitive damages against the bank.

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“Diminished capacity” a tough sell to juries  (access required)

As lawyers for Robert Stewart present their case to jurors, they’ll face daunting challenges in trying to convince those 12 men and women that the disabled painter who killed eight people at a Carthage nursing home isn’t fully responsible for those acts. Above all, they’re likely to face the kind of skepticism that has greeted what are known as diminished capacity defenses for over three decades, ever since the so-called “Twinkie defense” helped get Dan White convicted on lesser charges after he shot and killed the mayor of San Francisco and city supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. “Especially in violent crimes and crimes that appear to shock the conscience of a community, like those that Mr. Stewart is accused of committing, any type of defense based on mental illness is very, very difficult,” said Elizabeth Kelley, chairwoman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ mental health committee.

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High court orders judge to recalculate insurer’s liability  (access required)

An insurance company which provided coverage for a Myrtle Beach condo community may be responsible only for a portion of structural damage that unfolded over the course of years, the South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled. The court wrestled with how to apply the term “occurrence” to slow-motion water damage resulting from shoddy construction. Ultimately, the court adopted a formula for “dividing the loss among insurers… where proof of the actual property damage distribution is not available.” Attorneys involved in the case predict that the decision will help clarify what builders get in the way of coverage when insurance policies are negotiated.

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Reversal may return custody of girls to mother who allegedly tried to hide affair  (access required)

Greenwood County Family Court Judge Deborah Neese thought she was protecting the welfare and best interests of Marcus and Anna Moeller’s two daughters when she decided that their father should have physical custody of the pair. But the S.C. Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 10 that Judge Neese failed to view the “totality of the circumstances” in the case. It reversed her order, remanding the case to Greenwood County for the “entry of an order requiring a custody exchange to occur as soon as practicable.” Custody of the daughters may now be returned to Anna Moeller.

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