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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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Testimonials now permitted in attorney advertising   (access required)

The South Carolina Supreme Court has lifted its ban on testimonials in attorney advertising, one of several amendments to the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct released last week. The court had been considering a comprehensive set of amendments, as proposed by its Commission on Lawyer Advertising, but declined to adopt a majority of those changes. “The commission was looking to overhaul the entire structure, to try to make it an easier set of rules for lawyers to understand and comply with,” said Robert Wilcox, dean of the University of South Carolina Law School, who helped draft the commission’s proposed changes. “That was going to require a substantial rewrite of the rules, though, and I suspect the court just felt that would put South Carolina at odds with much of the country, and they weren’t anxious to go there.”

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After tort reform, support costs of litigation get a hard look from lawyers (access required)

In anticipation of state legislators passing tort reform, Mark McGrath and his law partner, George Podgorny, started reviewing medical malpractice cases for filing about eight months ago. With the new tort reform law taking effect Oct. 1, the triage of what to fast-track and what to drop continues unabated at McGrath Podgorny in Research Triangle Park, N.C... Every new case coming in is probed: How many medical experts are needed to present the case? How much research will be required? What’s the chance of settling the case or winning a jury verdict if it goes to trial? Is the patient at the center of the case a child or a nursing home resident?

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SC’s tough new immigration law could push foreign-born workers and their legal needs northward (access required)

If South Carolina’s aggressive new immigration law takes effect next year as scheduled, the controversial measure could clog the Charlotte Immigration Court with deportation cases and lead to a spike in business at law practices throughout the Carolinas. Modeled after legislation in Arizona, the immigration crackdown would allow police to rely on “reasonable suspicion” when asking for proof of citizenship or legal residence during any kind of stop, investigation or arrest. The law also establishes an Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit and requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check whether employees and job applicants are legal residents.

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Cigarette lawsuit could delay bolder warnings (access required)

The tobacco industry’s latest legal challenge to increased government regulation may not hold up in court, but it could mean it will be years before cigarette packs carry pictures of a smoker’s corpse or other graphic images meant to convey the dangers of smoking. Such a delay could save cigarette makers millions of dollars, both in lost sales and increased packaging costs, industry experts say.

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NLRB eyes Carolina office as it decides where to cut (access required)

Labor lawyers and a pair of North Carolina congressmen are pressuring the National Labor Relations Board to look elsewhere as it goes about the business of studying which regional offices can be closed. The NLRB is conducting a review of its Region 11 office in Winston-Salem, which serves North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Under pressure to cut costs, and facing a changing employment landscape, the board is considering downsizing the office and consolidating it with another region. That has area labor and employment attorneys scratching their heads.

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Tort of outrage nets $4 million to falsely accused parents  (access required)

A South Carolina couple whose children were taken from them by government social workers was awarded $4 million by a jury who agreed that the agency’s conduct was reckless. The case arose out of the response by the Fairfield County Department of Social Services to a May 15, 2008 hospital staff report of “potential parental poisoning” of two children of Otis and Diane Bass. After a short investigation, DSS notified the Basses that those children, along with a third child, would have to be placed with a relative or placed in foster care. Columbia attorney Jamie Walters (pictured), with John Koon and Lee Cope, represented the Basses.

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Child support case triggers another due process ruling  (access required)

The imprisonment of South Carolinians found in contempt for failure to pay child support was front and center when the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in Turner v. Rogers on June 20. In that case, the high court reversed a jail sentence entered against Michael Turner because the procedures at his civil contempt hearing violated his due process rights. Now the S.C. Supreme Court has entered the fray, reversing a child support-related criminal contempt penalty because Brian DiMarco (pictured) was entitled to a jury trial before Greenville County Family Court Judge Barry W. Knobel sentenced him to 12 months in prison.

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Cruise line wants Charleston lawsuit thrown out   (access required)

CHARLESTON (AP) — Carnival Cruise Lines has asked a state judge to toss out a lawsuit challenging its South Carolina cruise operations, saying the Charleston waterfront has been used for passenger ships far longer than city zoning rules have been in place. “Union Pier has been used as a passenger terminal since the beginning of the last century, whereas the provisions of the zoning ordinance relied upon by the plaintiffs in this case were enacted in 1996 or thereafter,” attorneys for the company wrote in a motion filed last week.

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