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Checks that don’t check out (access required)

In 22 years of practicing law, Charlotte residential real estate attorney R. Steven Smith had never had anything like it happen to him. Just before Memorial Day, Smith was representing a real estate agent in a closing for a waterfront home in the Charlotte area. The buyer was from Beijing, Smith was told, and moving to Charlotte to take a position in the information technology department of a local bank.

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Court: Quadriplegia made heatstroke foreseeable (access required)

A quadriplegic who suffered severe heatstroke when his caregiver left him in her car on a hot day was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for the stroke as a compensable consequence of the workplace injury that paralyzed him in the first place, the South Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled. In disputing the claim, the workers’ comp insurer argued that both the claimant’s decision to ride in his caretaker’s non-air-conditioned car on a scorching day and the caregiver’s negligence constituted unforeseeable intervening acts that broke the chain of causation. But the Court of Appeals disagreed, affirming decisions by both the Circuit Court and the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Gary Poliakoff (pictured) of Spartanburg, who represented the claimant, called the ruling a “good affirmation of workers’ compensation being applied as the law says it’s supposed to be.” Both statute and case law mandate that workers’ comp claims be liberally construed in favor of compensation, Poliakoff said.

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A case for extra care: Malpractice suits require plenty of support and expense (access required)

The term frivolous lawsuit is tossed around a lot, but attorney Ben Smith of Price, Smith, Hargett, Petho and Anderson in Charlotte finds the phrase objectionable in his practice area. “The phrase doesn’t exist in medical malpractice, and I resent people who go in public and say it does,” Smith said. “There is a large entry price in any case. You have to have an expert review the records, and they have to give a preliminary opinion on the case based solely on the record. You don’t really get to the meat of the case until you take a deposition, and that comes much later.”

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In wake of Wal-Mart, lawyers worry about fate of class actions (access required)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny class-action status to a group of women suing Wal-Mart for discrimination will roil the practice of employment law in South Carolina and across the country, legal observers say. “This is going to come up now every time you have a national client involved,” said M. Malissa Burnette, a specialist in employment and labor law with Callison Tighe & Robinson in Columbia. “For plaintiffs who attempt to do a lot of class actions, this is going to be a big deal.”

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Supreme Court: Appointed lawyers have constitutional right to fees (access required)

Although Jim Brown lost his battle for attorney’s fees at the South Carolina Supreme Court, he won the war for every other attorney in the state. The court rejected Brown’s appeal of Beaufort County Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen’s decision not to award him fees in excess of the $3,500 statutory limit for his representation of Alfonzo J. Howard, an indigent defendant who was charged in 2007 with armed robbery, kidnapping and first degree criminal sexual conduct. But the court accepted an amicus curiae brief filed by the South Carolina Bar in the case and, based on it, held “that the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is implicated when an attorney is appointed by the court to represent an indigent litigant. In such circumstances, the attorney’s services constitute property entitling the attorney to just compensation.”

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The Eight Year Itch (access required)

It took him nearly eight years to complete, but attorney William L. Esser IV of Charlotte stuck with a pro bono case that resulted in a very happy — and surprised — client. Esser serves on the pro bono committee for his firm, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein. In 2002, he began working on a landlord-tenant referral from Legal Aid. The case required him to be part attorney, part investigator, but solidified his belief that good things happen when lawyers help those who need it the most.

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A sound argument (access required)

After years of being the go-to Bike Week destination for motorcyclists, the city of Myrtle Beach tried to pass laws that would shoo out all the rumbling engines and leather-clad riders. But with the South Carolina Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that state law invalidated one of the laws, which required that all bikers wear helmets, some attorneys who specialize in motorcycle matters are saying they can beat another of Myrtle Beach’s biker-targeting ordinances: a noise ordinance more specific than South Carolina’s. Lawyers who work on motorcycle cases love a good fight. Last year, attorney Tom McGrath (pictured) represented motorcyclists in a suit which succeeded in getting the South Carolina Supreme Court to overturn Myrtle Beach’s helmet law.

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For employers, a harvest of uncertainty (access required)

While Congress is making another attempt at immigration reform, South Carolina is moving ahead with its own versions of reform, giving employers in some industries — notably agriculture — a legal headache. Shaundra Young, an attorney with South Carolina Legal Services, is waiting to see what will come of an attempt in the U.S. House of Representatives to require employers to use E-Verify to check workers’ status, as well as the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, which upheld Arizona’s law allowing the state to suspend business licenses of employers who hire unauthorized workers.

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U.S. 4th Circuit smacks down flawed searches (access required)

A pair of rare conviction reversals by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on search-and-seizure grounds signal that contrary to the assumptions of many in the defense bar, it’s worthwhile to challenge government evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds, defense attorneys told Lawyers Weekly. However, the reversals shouldn’t be interpreted as an ideological sea change on one of the most conservative federal courts in the nation, attorneys said.

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Linking firms in a shrinking world (access required)

When Greenville lawyer Henry Parr got an assignment to draft a distribution agreement between his American client and a South Korean company, he knew his work was cut out for him. Parr, a partner in the Greenville-based Wyche law firm, had to come up with a document that would comply with every South Korean law relevant to the parties' agreement. He had a tight deadline. And he had a problem. "I needed to know whether South Korea had any special provisions dealing with distribution arrangements," he said. So he sent out an email.

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