Posts By: Paul Daniels

Binding Arbitration: When Not to Go to Court

Personal Injury

 

Binding Arbitration: When Not to Go to Court

I find that many clients assume the best way to win their case is to take it to court and make sure that it is heard by a judge and jury. The truth of the matter is that a trial isn’t always the best (or fastest) way to go about it.

 

For instance, I recently worked with a client who was injured by an uninsured driver and made a claim for underinsured motorist coverage. Our first step was to submit a demand to the insurance companies. They made an offer of $20,000. That might seem like a fair amount of money, but the reality of the situation was that it only covered the medical bills.

Rather than taking the matter to court, we demanded arbitration with the insurance carriers. They agreed to meet for voluntary mediation. During the mediation, the insurance carriers upped their offer to $30,000. However, they refused to negotiate any further.

 

I knew that my client deserved more than this, so we went to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is like a very informal, mini trial in which the rules of evidence don’t apply. Instead, an impartial third party is brought in to hear both sides and decide on a ruling. In this case, the arbitrators came back with an award of $50,000 — $20,000 more than the insurance companies had offered us!

 

It just goes to show that sometimes the best course of action is to utilize binding arbitration when it is allowed. This kind of hearing can be efficient for settling claims and can result in rewards that are substantially higher than the original offers.

 

If you or someone you know has been wrongfully injured, be sure to contact an experienced lawyer at Oxner + Permar. With more than $275 million in awards and settlements, we know how to make wrongs, right.

 

What Qualifies as “Public Use” in North Carolina?

Eminent Domain

What Qualifies as “Public Use” in North Carolina?

The U.S. Constitution is generally very careful about what the government can and can’t do. The Founding Fathers outlined a government that would not have the same tyrannical power as a monarchy like the U.K. So when the government is given power by the Constitution, it’s usually for something that would benefit the greater good. One such instance is that of “public use.”

A digger demolishing houses for reconstruction.

The Constitution states that property may be taken away from individuals by the government for public use provided that the government pays a fair compensation. Traditionally this has been used to create public goods such as parks, highways, or schools. The general consensus is that this is a fair use of government power.

 

However, in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court went a very different direction with what is considered public use. They ruled that a decision that encourages economic development is protected under public use. Therefore, if the city could gain a higher tax value by taking a woman’s home and allowing Wal-Mart to build on the property, they could do so under public use.

 

As you might imagine, this was a very divisive decision, and many people felt that it was an abuse of government power. As a result, many states decided to enact legislation that would strengthen their laws regarding eminent domain to combat this decision. Many states, such as South Carolina, have elected to exclude economic development as a basis for taking property. North Carolina on the other hand, has not enacted laws to strengthen property right protections.

Litigation Concerning the Map Act Continues

Eminent Domain

Litigation Concerning the Map Act Continues

A recent hot topic of the eminent domain world has been the “Map Act,” and as such it has been the topic of our last few eminent domain posts. A quick refresher: the Map Act was a law in North Carolina that allowed city governments to stake claim on land that they were planning on using for infrastructure without having to put any money towards that claim. Recently the Court of Appeals ruled that the Map Act was improper as it caused the value of the land claimed by the government to plummet. The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ ruling.

Excellent! The ruling has been upheld, which is great news. Unfortunately, this process is not complete just yet, however. The next step is for the initial trial court to implement the Supreme Court’s decision. Superior Court Judge Joe Craig’s ruling on the case outlined a list of requirements that the state must follow. One such requirement was that the state begins hiring appraisers to value the properties and set aside the appraised value of that property for compensation. The state has 90 days to evaluate and deposit the money for the 9 properties that were brought into question during the case.

Even with this ruling, there are still some uncertainties. For instance, it is unknown whether this is a complete taking or not. In other words, does the state have to buy the property in full? Or is it just compensation for the decreased value of the property that the state has to pay? It’s going to take additional litigation and time to resolve these issues. In the meantime, homeowners will face additional hardship and uncertainty, and the state will owe more money.  We’ll be sure to keep you informed as things progress. If you have any questions about eminent domain and your own property, don’t hesitate to contact us.

North Carolina’s Ruling on The Map Act

Eminent Domain

North Carolina’s Ruling on The Map Act

Red pins show locations across a USA map in South Carolina USAUnless you were directly affected by it, you may not have heard of the “Map Act,” but it’s at the center of the biggest eminent domain law case in the world right now. The Map Act was originally passed in the late 80s to allow cities to put development restrictions on land that they were intending to use for future roadways—basically the government could call “dibs” on land that they wanted to use without having to put any money towards that reservation.

This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, as it would prevent new construction in areas where new roadways were planned. This meant that the city would be able to spend less money purchasing the land, and new developments wouldn’t have to be torn down in order to make way for the new road.

However, the big problem here was that it might take years or even decades for the city to be ready to actually purchase the land. Which meant it was very difficult for landowners to sell or develop their land. Land in protected areas became less valuable and, in some cases, unsalable.

Many people felt that the loss of property value was a bigger problem than the eventual cost to the cities for the price of land, so earlier this year the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the Map Act was in fact a case of the government taking private property, and the U.S. requires compensation. The state, unhappy with this outcome, appealed the Court of Appeals ruling to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals: the Map Act was in violation of the landowners’ rights.

The North Carolina Supreme Court also ordered that the landowners affected by the law receive the difference in the value of their land before and after the law was passed. It is estimated that the government will have to pay around $200 million in compensation.

When it comes to your rights, Oxner + Permar is dedicated to making sure that you are being protected. If you have any questions or concerns about your rights, be sure to contact an attorney for a free, 30-minute consultation.

Seamon v. Remington Arms Company, llc

In a closely watched case, a Federal Appeals Court has reversed a decision from a lower court, which threw out an expert’s opinion because the court said it was unreliable. The case, Seamon v. Remington Arms Company, LLC, is a tragic case surrounding the mysterious death of the plaintiff’s husband who was shot by his own Remington Model 700 rifle. The decedent, Mr. Seamon, went deer hunting and when he didn’t return, his family went looking for him and found him dead in his elevated tree stand with a single gunshot wound to his chest. Mr. Seamon’s Remington Model 700 rifle was found on the ground thirteen feet below attached to a rope that wrapped around the rifle’s scope and safety. The safety mechanism was off and there was a spent cartridge in the chamber, but there was no gunshot residue on Mr. Seamon’s body or clothing, leading law enforcement to conclude that the rifle was at least five to ten feet away from Mr. Seamon when it fired. Moreover, Mr. Seamon’s left hand was clenched around the front rail of the tree stand and his right hand was positioned as if he had been grasping something. The obvious question was how was Mr. Seamon shot?

Mrs. Seamon, the plaintiff, alleged that her husband died when the rifle accidently discharged because of defects with the trigger system. The Remington Model 700 contains the Walker fire control system, which is different than other trigger systems in that even a very slight movement of one of the parts allows the rifle to fire accidently. According to Ms. Seamon’s expert, Mr. Powell, rifles with Walker triggers have fired unexpectedly a number of times in testing reported by Remington Arms. According to Mr. Powell, little things like dirt, corrosion deposits, moisture, firing deposits and manufacturing residue can prevent the trigger parts from engaging correctly, making the rifle subject to unexpected firing. During testing, Mr. Powell found particles and deposits in the fire control housing, which he said have been show to cause interference in the Walker system and cause rifles to fire without interaction with the trigger. Mr. Powell concluded that the rifle might have gone off unexpectedly when it came into contact with the tree, rope or the ground.

The trial court struck Mr. Powell’s opinion as to why the Remington Model 700 discharged, because it said that his opinion was “speculative” and therefore, unreliable, and dismissed Ms. Seamon’s lawsuit against Remington. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and reinstated the case. The appellate court concluded that Mr. Powell had provided sufficient factual support for his opinion and that the trial court had “manifestly erred by mischaracterizing Powell’s opinion and the evidence supporting it . . . .”

Seamon v. Remington Arms Company, LLC demonstrates once again how complicated the law can be, and how important it is to have on your side experienced and knowledgeable legal representation like the lawyers at Oxner + Permar ,PLLC. If you find yourself with a complicated legal question, call us and take advantage of our decades of legal experience. You will be glad you did!

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