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Corporate Counsel Section Website › Newsletters › The Business Lawyer, November 2010 › The Chair's Comments: A Word from John Orgain

The Chair's Comments: A Word from John Orgain

Article Date: Monday, November 08, 2010

A new year for the North Carolina Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Section is underway. One of the issues that the section’s Legislative Committee has been following is the status of the contributory negligence system in North Carolina.

By way of background, in 2009 the North Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 813, which would have moved North Carolina’s civil litigation system from a contributory negligence system to a comparative fault system and would have allowed a plaintiff to recover if the plaintiff was determined to be less than 50% at fault. House Bill 813 passed the House by a margin of 67-53.

When House Bill 813 moved to the Senate, the bill was sent to a bipartisan subcommittee comprised of four Senators. The Senate subcommittee held the bill through the interim to better understand the implications of moving from a contributory negligence system to a comparative fault system. In 2010, the business and health care communities negotiated with the Academy of Justice (the Trial Lawyers) on a proposal that, in exchange for moving away from a system of contributory negligence to a comparative fault system, would have eliminated joint and several liability for defendants deemed to be less than 50% at fault and would have required that only evidence of actual medical damages paid could be submitted to the jury. The Trial Lawyers faced internal dissension because the medical malpractice trial attorneys did not want a weakening of joint and several liability and the vehicle wreck trial attorneys did not want to submit actual medical bills paid to the jury. The Trial Lawyers informed the Senate subcommittee that they did not want to move forward with eliminating contributory negligence in the 2010 Short Session under the circumstances. Discussions continue about what will happen in the 2011 Long Session with legislation concerning changes to the contributory negligence system.

The Corporate Counsel Section’s Pro Bono Committee has been supporting the North Carolina Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (NC LEAP). NC LEAP provides pro bono assistance for low-income entrepreneurial individuals throughout North Carolina and provides an opportunity for corporate counsel to utilize their skills to help deserving individuals start and grow new businesses. NC LEAP clients may need assistance with entity formation, contracts, trademarks, bankruptcy and other areas of law with which corporate counsel have experience and expertise. What a perfect fit for corporate counsel looking for an appropriate way to provide outreach and pro bono services to our local communities. I hope you will considerate allocating some of your pro bono hours to NC LEAP.

These are just two examples of different types of work being performed by your Corporate Counsel Section Committees.  In addition to the Legislative and Pro Bono Committees, your Corporate Counsel Section has Career Development, Continuing Legal Education, Ethics, Home Page, Meetings, Membership, Newsletter and Nominating Committees that are hard at work. Your ideas, comments and participation are encouraged and welcomed. The Corporate Counsel Section exists to serve the members’ needs by helping you better serve your businesses and your other clients and your local communities.

We are off to a fast start this year thanks to the prior work and leadership of Past Chair Timika Shafeek-Horton from Duke Energy. This year’s Corporate Counsel Section is led by Andrew Spainhour from Replacements as Vice Chair, Corie Pauling from TIAA-CREF as Secretary, and Tammy Stringer from BB&T as Treasurer. Julie Fink and Stephanie McGee from the North Carolina Bar Association keep everything running effectively for the section. I feel privileged to be serving as chair this year with such a talented group. Our energetic and enthusiastic Section Council is here to serve you. Please let us know how we can help your practice.
The Corporate Counsel Section held its first meeting of the new NCBA year in Greensboro at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Following our business meeting, our luncheon speaker, Andy Ellen, General Counsel for the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association and its affiliated organizations, gave the group a run down of the 2010 Short Session of the North Carolina General Assembly and a preview of some of the issues to expect in the 2011 Long Session.

Our November 12 meeting will be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and I hope to see many of you there. We have several interesting luncheon speakers that day, including Chris Kouri, the General Counsel of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Our quarterly meetings provide both substantive updates and good opportunities for networking and sharing of ideas with each other. Additional quarterly meetings are scheduled in Winston-Salem on February 11 and in Cary on May 5. The Corporate Counsel Section’s annual meeting and CLE program will be held on February 17-18 in Pinehurst. The CLE program will be presented with the Business Law and International Law Sections. Please check the Corporate Counsel Section’s website ( ) for more details about our meetings and other Section activities.

A number of you have contacted me at . I hope to hear from many others with questions, ideas and offers to help the Corporate Counsel Section provide useful services and information to our members and communities. The section’s new year is off to an exciting start, let’s keep the momentum going.
Views and opinions expressed in articles published herein are the authors' only and are not to be attributed to this newsletter, the section, or the NCBA unless expressly stated. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of all citations and quotations.