News

Nashville Lawyer Receives 2015 Paladin Award

Nashville attorney Kenny Byrd of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has been recognized with the Tennessee Association for Justice’s (TAJ) 2015 Paladin Award. The award is the group’s highest honor, given to an attorney who has demonstrated superior skills as a trial advocate, has achieved an outstanding result for clients and has worked to improve the civil justice system. Byrd was recognized for the role he played in successful litigation against cigarette manufacturers R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Company.

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Court Rules on Passport Issue, Grants 3 Cases for Fall

The U.S. Supreme Court issued three opinions today, including one favoring the White House in a foreign-policy power struggle with Congress over whether Jerusalem-born Americans may list Israel as the place of birth on their U.S. passports. The court also agreed to hear three cases in the fall: when a three-judge panel must be convened to consider challenges to redistricting plans, how workers prove class action damages, and whether a defendant facing asset forfeiture can use funds not obtained from the crime to pay for legal representation. Finally, the court declined to hear four cases, including another challenge to the Affordable Care Act and a question of whether local governments may require handguns be disabled or locked up when they are not being carried. Read a wrap-up from SCOTUSblog.

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Hamilton County Jury Awards $20 Million to Developers

A Hamilton County Circuit Court jury today awarded $20,599,000 to the developers of Canyon Ridge on Lookout Mountain against a financial firm that allegedly secretly started working on a rival project. The jury also said the plaintiffs are due punitive damages. Attorneys tell Chattanoogan.com that it is believed to be the largest verdict award in Hamilton County history.

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Holmes Named New Federal Magistrate

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has announced that Barbara D. Holmes has been selected to replace Magistrate Judge Juliet Griffin, who will be retiring July 31. Holmes is currently head of h3gm’s Commercial Bankruptcy and Reorganization Practice Group. She has more than 25 years of experience with restructuring and insolvency matters and commercial litigation in state and federal courts.

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Fungal Meningitis Victims to Share $200 Million

A $200 million settlement has been reached to pay out claims in the 2012 nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that was first detected in Nashville and was traced to an injectable steroid made by Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC). The outbreak sickened 778 people across the country, killing 76, according to an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tennessee was one of the hardest hit states with a total of 153 people sickened and 16 deaths. Dozens of civil lawsuits from across the country were consolidated into the bankruptcy filing of NECC. About 3,770 people nationwide have filed claims against the company. The Tennessean has the story.

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Justices Side With Employees Over Retirement Plan

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today in favor of participants in employee retirement plans who object to companies' investment decisions that eat into retirement savings, WMC News 5 reports. The justices revived claims by current and former employees of energy company Edison International who argued that the company chose mutual funds with excessive fees. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate decision in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer. People in charge of investment options have an ongoing responsibility to monitor the situation, Breyer said. "The continuing duty to review investments includes a duty to remove imprudent investments," Breyer said. The AP has more.

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Insurance Defense Firm Expands to Nashville

McAngus Goudelock & Courie, a regional insurance defense firm, has expanded into Nashville, making it the firm’s 12th office in the Southeast. MGC welcomes four new attorneys to the firm’s newest office: Paul Brewer, Joey Johnsen, Chuck Mangelsdorf and Stephen Morton.

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Opt-Out Workers Comp Bill On Hold

A crusade to allow Tennessee employers to opt out of mandatory workers’ compensation insurance seems a first-year flop, but will likely be back next year, Knoxnews reports. Sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, SB0721/HB0997 sets minimum payout provisions — $300,000 in most circumstances for medical coverage — and sets a limit on lawsuit payouts. The Tennessee Bar Association and a number of insurance companies oppose the proposal.

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Justice Kirby to Speak at Annual Litigation CLE

Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby will provide the keynote remarks at this year’s annual Litigation CLE. The seven-hour program on April 17 will address tort reform and effective oral advocacy for litigators. Visit TBA CLE for more information.

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Court Deletes Unpublished Opinion Rule

For many years, Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 4(H) required attorneys to furnish to the court and to opposing counsel copies of all unpublished opinions cited in motions and briefs. Effective immediately, the Tennessee Supreme Court has deleted this requirement. The change means that in both trial courts and on appeal, attorneys are no longer required to file copies of unpublished opinions. The TBA commented on the proposed rule, supporting the change but also encouraging recognition of a broad list of sources for such opinions. Though the order is dated March 4, it was distributed only today by the court clerk. Read the court’s order here.

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Tech Savvy Trial Attorney Wanted

A motivated, independent attorney is sought to represent clients in complex and/or high-risk civil litigation. The ideal candidate will live in the Knoxville area. The opening is a full-time, work from home position that requires a technology savvy attorney who can work in a paper-less environment with support staff located in Nashville. Read all the details at TBA Joblink.

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Nashville Firm Plays Role in $100M Tobacco Settlement

A federal judge yesterday morning put a 90-day hold on all of the so-called Engle Progeny tobacco pending lawsuits in the Florida federal courts after being notified of a settlement agreement. Attorneys from the Nashville office of Lieff Cabraser have won several high-profile verdicts against cigarette manufacturers in recent months, including a $41 million verdict in October, the largest victory in the Engle cases. The Nashville Scene has more.

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Attorneys Form Green Hills Law Firm

Three Nashville attorneys, including the former legal counsel to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, have opened a law firm in the Green Hills area of the city. Trajan Carney, Steve Elkins and Leslie Curry have created Carney|Elkins|Curry PLC at 3817 Bedford Ave. in Bedford Commons. The firm will handle general civil litigation and appellate practice, with a focus on construction law, general business litigation, administrative and regulatory law, and labor and employment law. It also will offer estate planning and probate services. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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Butler Snow Acquires Nashville Litigation Firm

Butler Snow is acquiring locally based litigation firm Walker Tipps & Malone, according to the Nashville Business Journal. The deal will boost Butler Snow's Nashville office to more than 60 attorneys, expanding its practice lines, which currently specialize in health care, commercial litigation and business services. Walker Tipps & Malone brings along civil and business litigation as well as personal injury practices.

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Waller Adds 11 Attorneys

Waller today announced the addition of 11 new attorneys to several key practice groups: real estate, finance and restructuring, labor and employment, healthcare compliance and operations, and litigation and dispute resolution practices. "In response to the needs of our clients, we continue to experience tremendous growth in practices that are core strengths of our firm," said Waller chair Matt Burnstein.

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New Website Uses Crowdfunding to Finance Lawsuits

A new website unveiled yesterday uses crowdfunding to finance potentially high-value commercial lawsuits, the ABA Journal reports. LexShares connects accredited investors with plaintiffs in commercial lawsuits. LexShares’ staff of legal and securities professionals reviews the suits and only posts cases deemed to have strong merit. If the plaintiff wins a settlement or court judgment, the investors will recover an amount “proportionate to the investment,” the press release says. If the plaintiff loses, the investors lose their money.

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TDLA Names New President, Officers

The Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association (TDLA) recently installed James H. Tucker Jr. as its 49th president. He is the first African American to hold this position. The association, which represents lawyers engaged in civil defense litigation, also announced new officers for 2014-2015: President-Elect Cate Dugan of Deason & Associates in Nashville; Secretary-Treasurer Barret Albritton of Spears, More, Rebman & Williams in Chattanooga; and Vice President Rocky King of Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis in Knoxville. Immediate past president Bradford D. Box will serve as the new DRI Representative for Tennessee.

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NBJ Ranks Nashville's Top Litigation Judgments

The Nashville Business Journal ranked the largest litigation judgments awarded in Nashville during the past year (July 2013- June 2014). First Bank’s May 2014 suit against Gold Building LLC/Feras Abualrob tops the list with a judgment of $1.4 million.

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Court Opens Term with Case on Police Actions

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its new term Monday with a case questioning whether a police officer’s misunderstanding of the law can justify a traffic stop that led to the seizure of illegal drugs. A divided North Carolina Supreme Court said the mistake was reasonable enough to justify the routine traffic stop and refused to toss out the drug evidence. Other actions today included decisions to leave in place the conviction of a Massachusetts man who argued his online activities were free speech, not support for al-Qaida; reject an appeal to South Carolina’s redrawn state house and congressional maps; and not hear an appeal from a lawyer/activist who claimed a federal judge ruled against him because of personal bias.

The court did grant review in a number of cases, including a challenge to Abercrombie & Fitch’s decision to not hire a Muslim teen because her hijab was deemed inconsistent with the company’s dress code; a question of federal litigation fee awards; a case involving ERISA plan fiduciaries; and whether discrimination claims brought under the Fair Housing Act can be based on proof of disparate impact rather than intentional discrimination. WATE News 6, WRCB News 3, Bloomberg News and the ABA Journal have more on each of these cases.

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Group Granted Class Action Status in HCA Lawsuit

Plaintiffs who filed a securities fraud case against HCA Holdings Inc., the Nashville-based hospital giant, on Monday were granted class-action status in a suit stemming from the company’s $4.3 billion initial public offering in 2011, the Tennessean reports. The claim, brought by New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund as lead plaintiff, alleges HCA failed to disclose the company was experiencing a decline in Medicare and Medicaid revenues and had improperly accounted for previous reorganizations in a “false and misleading” initial public offering registration statement. The list of defendants includes HCA’s top executives as well as several high-profile investment banks and a private equity group.

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Court Seeks Comments on Rule Change Package

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Proposals include new authority for appellate courts to suspend rules; requirements for electronic copies of transcripts; specification of the color of application responses and amici in TRAP 9 and 11 matters; and refinement of criminal contempt provisions. Four TBA sections — Appellate Practice, Litigation, Tort and Insurance Law, and Criminal Justice — will review the recommendations and propose comments on behalf of the association. Comments on the proposals are due Nov. 27.

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Court: Unlimited Surety Bond Not Required to Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that an unlimited surety bond is not required for an appeal of a civil case from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court. Ruling in a 2007 Shelby County case, the court found that a cash bond covering the amount of court costs and litigation taxes is enough to permit an appeal. The unanimous ruling also noted that courts can request additional security under state law if necessary. The AOC has more on the decision.

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Chattanooga Lawyer Sues Phone Book for Wrong Listing

Chattanooga attorney Charles Dupree, who has practiced in the city since 1974, has sued YP Southeast Advertising & Publishing LLC and Yellowbook after his name was listed backward -- with Charles being listed as his last name and Dupree being listed as his first name -- in both the white and yellow pages. Dupree said he was contacted last spring by the directory sales staff to confirm his 2014 listing. He advised that the listing should remain the same. In his complaint, Dupree says the mix-up suggests he has gone out of business and that lawyers and clients have remarked about him 'not being in the telephone book.’ The suit seeks $65,000 in damages.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Columns Cover Statute of Repose, Reproductive Rights, Don Paine

In this issue, President Cindy Wyrick and columnist John Day each give different views of the Statute of Repose, and Marlene Eskind Moses's column this month covers a little-known area of reproductive rights, assisted reproductive technology. Don Paine, who died in November, is remembered by editor Suzanne Craig Robertson and columnist Bill Haltom, who also gives tribute to John Smartt. You can also read a "Paine on Procedure" column written by Paine before his death.

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