— News of the Firm

Jon Harkavy Presents Annual Paper on SCOTUS Employment Law Decisions

On October 21st, at the 27th Annual North Carolina/South Carolina Labor and Employment Law CLE held in Charleston, South Carolina, Jonathan Harkavy presented his 2010-11 annual review of the Supreme Court’s employment law cases.  His paper is entitled “Supreme Court of the United States Employment Law Commentary, 2010 Term.”  (Please download his article from here.)

 Introduction:  The 2010 Term of the Supreme Court of the United States put a spotlight on the significant – though oddly unheralded – role that employment law plays in our country’s economy and in our citizens’ daily lives. One of the nation’s keenest (and self-described “obsessive”) Court observers recently characterized this term as “straight-up dull.” Emily Bazelon, “Chamber of Pain,” The New York Times Magazine, p. 9 (August 7, 2011.) My own judgment, however, is that what the Justices did in the employment area was consequential, if not downright exciting.  Through a number of employment-related cases, a cohesive and assertive majority of the Court fashioned the law to fit its socio-economic (if not overtly political) view that the employment relationship ought to be deregulated.  In doing so, the Court continued to pursue what the Reagan revolution began and the Tea Party followers hope to complete.  But more about that later.  For Court observers of all political stripes, the 2010 Term’s smorgasbord of decisions provides a feast to be savored and debated for months to come.

Categories: Judicial Decisions, News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , ,

Briefs in IBEW 289 Arbitration Case in Federal Court

In International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 289 v. Verizon South, Inc., the Union has filed suit in federal court (Middle District of North Carolina) to compel the company to engage in arbitration regarding the termination of an employee.  On behalf of the Union, Patterson Harkavy has filed this response brief and this reply brief.  Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.

This is a summary of the Union’s argument:  Because national labor policy strongly favors arbitration as the means for resolving labor disputes, courts must apply a presumption of arbitrability to collective bargaining agreements that contain arbitration provisions, and direct the parties to arbitrate unless the parties have expressly agreed not to arbitrate a particular matter.  Any doubt or ambiguity regarding arbitrability is to be resolved in favor of arbitration. 

Here, the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and separate settlement agreement for grievant Brian Pollard require arbitration of the grievance regarding Pollard’s termination because Pollard was not a “new employee” when he was rehired in 2010.  Moreover, to the extent the settlement agreement is ambiguous about permitting Pollard’s grievance to be arbitrated, that ambiguity must be construed in favor of arbitration.  Therefore, defendant’s motion to dismiss should be denied, and plaintiff’s motion to compel arbitration – filed this same day – should be granted.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Hank Presents Paper on 2011 Changes to Workers’ Comp Law

At a recent CLE addressing changes to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law put on by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, Hank Patterson presented his paper entitled “Changes to G.S. §97-29: Limitations on Total Disability Benefits – Cap and Credit”.  In the paper Hank summarizes and discusses the amendments to N.C. G.S. §97-29 in House Bill 709, which was signed into law June 24, 2011.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , ,

Burton Speaks About the New Medical Malpractice Legislation

Burton Craige addressed another bill passed in the North Carolina General Assembly this session with his paper entitled “SB 33: The Brave New World of Malpractice Litigation” where he summarizes Senate Bill 33, shows its evolution and addresses some of the possible constitutional challenges that it may face.  He spoke about his paper at a CLE hosted by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice in Raleigh on August 31, 2011.

Introduction:

On July 25, 2011, the North Carolina House of Representatives, by a vote of 74-42, overrode Governor Perdue’s veto of the medical malpractice bill (SB 33). The enactment of SB 33 culminated an intense six-month legislative battle.

When the Act becomes effective on October 1, 2011, a new era of malpractice litigation in North Carolina will begin. Injured patients, who already face formidable barriers, will find it harder to find a lawyer, pursue their claims, and recover adequate compensatory damages. Lawyers and judges will be forced to decipher complex new statutory language.  Courts will confront constitutional challenges to the bill’s most controversial provision, the $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

ATU 1328 Prevails in Arbitration Case in Federal Court

In, Cape Fear Public Transit Authority v. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1328, the Wilmington transit authority is challenging a labor arbitration in favor of the Union, which ordered a terminated employee be put back to work.  This case is before federal Judge Boyle in the Eastern District of North Carolina.  Yesterday, Judge Boyle ruled for the Union, concluding that there were no grounds to reverse the arbitration decision.  Finding the city’s lawsuit to be “without justification,” Judge Boyle also awarded the Union its attorneys’ fees for defending this case.  Here is the opinion.  Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.

Categories: News of the Firm, Results Tags: , , , , , , ,

Burton Presents “Billed v. Paid” Paper

Burton Craige authored a paper this month titled “Billed v. Paid: Present, Past, Future”.  Burton presented his paper this month at the North Carolina Advocates for Justice CLE, “Bill v. Paid: Counting the True Cost.”  His paper discusses the way the “Billed v. Paid” issue is handled in other states and how North Carolina’s law has changed over the years.

Introduction:

In June 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted HB 542, titled “Tort Reform for Citizens and Businesses.”  Section 1.1 of HB 542 creates a new rule of evidence (Rule 414) that limits evidence of past medical expenses to “the amounts actually paid to satisfy the bills” and “the amounts actually necessary to satisfy the bills that have been incurred but not yet satisfied.”  Section 1.2 amends G.S. § 8-58.1, limiting the plaintiff’s testimony about reasonable medical expenses to the amount “paid or required to be paid in full satisfaction” of the charges. In combination, the new provisions, commonly referred to as “billed v. paid,” will significantly reduce the amount that injured plaintiffs can recover for their medical expenses.  The billed v. paid provisions are effective for all actions “arising on or after” October 1, 2011.

In the past decade, many states have confronted the billed v. paid issue in their appellate courts.  A handful of states have addressed the issue legislatively.  This paper reviews the experience in other jurisdictions, traces the evolution of billed v. paid in North Carolina, and identifies a potential constitutional challenge to the new legislation.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Briefs in ATU 1328 Arbitration Case

In, Cape Fear Public Transit Authority v. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1328, the Wilmington transit authority is challenging a labor arbitration that was in favor of the Union, and which ordered a terminated employee be put back to work.  This case is before Judge Boyle in federal court (EDNC).  On behalf of the Union, Patterson Harkavy has filed the following brief, response brief, and reply brief.  Mike Okun and Narendra Ghosh are representing the Union.

Here is a summary of the Union’s position: 

First, plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed for failure to timely effect service because plaintiff did not properly serve defendant before the 120-day deadline elapsed, and had no good cause for its failure to do so.  Second, plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed because plaintiff CFPTA was not a party to the arbitration decision that it seeks to vacate, has no standing to challenge the decision, and has provided no relevant authority to demonstrate that it is permitted to bring this suit under 28 U.S.C. § 185. 

Third, plaintiff’s claim should be dismissed for failure to state a valid claim to vacate the arbitration decision.  The arbitrator correctly determined that Professional Transit Management of Wilmington, Inc. (“PTM”) violated the controlling collective bargain agreement (“CBA”) in terminating the grievant, and to the extent there was ambiguity in the operative language of the CBA, the arbitrator’s interpretation cannot be disturbed by the Court.  Under the standard enunciated by the Supreme Court, plaintiff has also failed to show how the arbitrator’s decision to reinstate the grievant violates any clearly established public policy.  For all these reasons, the Court should award defendant its reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in this litigation because plaintiff’s motion to vacate the arbitration award has no arguable basis in the law.

 

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Burton Files Amicus Brief with Court of Appeals in Medical Malpractice Case

Burton Craige recently submitted an amicus brief with attorney Andrew J. Schwaba on behalf of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice in Jenkins v. Hearn Vascular Surgery P.A., addressing the question: “Is a child injured by prenatal medical malpractice barred from bringing a cause of action if the negligence occurred early in the pregnancy?”  A copy of the brief may be viewed here.

Summary of the Brief:  “Decades ago, North Carolina joined nearly every other state in recognizing that survivors of prenatal medical malpractice can bring negligence claims against the doctors responsible for their injuries and birth defects. … Our courts did not make recovery dependent on a fetus’s gestational age at the time of the negligence.

The question of whether North Carolina’s Wrongful Death Act, N.C.G.S. § 28A-18-2 creates a cause of action for the wrongful death of a nonviable fetus has no relation to claims of common law negligence.  When it is reasonably foreseeable that negligent care could injure a woman’s future child, doctors have the duty to avoid negligently placing the future child at risk of injury.  This duty does not depend on whether a fetus has reached the stage of viability.  Accepting a contrary rule would run counter to North Carolina law, break ranks with every other state, and deny a remedy to injured children who will suffer their entire lives because of avoidable medical negligence.”

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Civil Rights Complaint Filed on Behalf of Greg Taylor

A civil rights complaint has been filed in federal court on behalf of Plaintiff Gregory Flynt Taylor against Peter Duane Deaver and other former employees of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation seeking damages for his wrongful incarceration.  The complaint may be viewed here.

In April 1993, Mr. Taylor was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a murder two years earlier which he did not commit.  The Defendants worked in the SBI Crime Lab and wrote a deliberately misleading report about evidence collected from the crime scene.  Because this report misrepresented the facts and the findings of the laboratory tests, Mr. Taylor was convicted of a crime he did not commit and spent the next 17 years in prison.  On February 17, 2011 a three-judge panel unanimously found that Mr. Taylor was innocent of the charge of murder and ordered his immediate release.  Mr. Taylor was given a full Pardon of Innocence by Governor Beverly Perdue on May 21, 2010.

Mr. Taylor’s complaint brings claims under the federal constitution, North Carolina Constitution, and North Carolina common law.  Mr. Taylor is represented by Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh, as well as Spencer Parris and Christopher Olson at Martin & Jones.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Patterson Harkavy Prevails in Workers’ Comp Case In Court of Appeals

In Campbell v. National Pipe and Plastics Inc. the Plaintiff, Sherron Campbell, was represented in part by Narendra Ghosh of Patterson Harkavy.  The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled for the plaintiff in affirming the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s Opinion and Award, which had awarded workers’ compensation benefits to Ms. Campbell.

Ms. Campbell suffered injuries to her right hand and fingers when attempting to stop her fall by grabbing a nearby pipe.  This injury and resulting disability also aggravated Ms. Campbell’s depression, which had been manageable up to this point.  In the appeal, the defendants contended that the Commission erred in assigning weight to Dr. Williams’ testimony, arguing that they considered it to be speculative because he did not identify a specific degree to which Ms. Campbell’s compensable injury by accident had exacerbated her preexisting condition.   However, the Court held that Dr. Williams did not need to determine to what degree the workplace injury exacerbated the psychological condition, but only that it was a factor in the exacerbation of Ms. Cambell’s preexisting condition.  The defendants also contended that the Commission did not determine if plaintiff’s statements to her doctor were credible, but the Court ruled that a doctor is entitled to rely on information provided by the patient to form his opinion.  And, in any event, the Court of Appeals does not have authority to reweigh evidence or credibility determinations after the Commission has considered it.  Defendants’ final argument that the Commission erred in giving weight to Dr. Prakken’s opinion was overruled by the Court, which concluded that the Commission does not need to explain why it has given weight to particular evidence.

Categories: Judicial Decisions, News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , ,