North Carolina

Review

Dispute resolution
Smith Anderson

Smith Anderson is a Raleigh-based business and litigation law firm known for its team of trial-tested lawyers. Recipient of the North Carolina Firm of the Year award at the annual Benchmark US awards ceremony for several consecutive years, the firm continues to impress local peers and clients, with some partners even hailed by top trial lawyers at white-shoe New York firms who have worked with Smith Anderson partners. “They were wonderful North Carolina counsel,” one such peer shares. “They played a big role at trial examining witnesses, they were very useful in that regard.” The firm has made a strategic decision to stay politically neutral, noted as being “very smart but very unusual in North Carolina,” and is active in a range of matters from large multi-party, multi-jurisdiction litigation for companies of all sizes to matters for small private businesses and pro bono clients. Smith Anderson has also emphasized intellectual property as a growth area as of late. Firm partners actually tried a copyright case concerning an architectural design for a developer in the Greensboro area and also had a trademark case against Starbucks.

     A new addition to the Benchmark rankings this year, Addie Ries has made considerable strides. “She is doing some really fantastic stuff with product liability,” insists a peer. “She is go-to counsel for Dupont and Duke Energy. They’ve asked her to be lead counsel for their asbestos cases. She has gotten a lot of national attention for the work that she’s done.” These alluded-to asbestos cases, filed in North Carolina and South Carolina, typically involve wrongful-death claims brought by individual plaintiffs who allege exposure to asbestos at premises owned by DuPont in North or South Carolina. Ries also represents Dynax in approximately 1,000 cases filed in jurisdictions throughout the nation and transferred to the AFFF MDL in South Carolina. Plaintiffs claim that Dynax and a multitude of other defendants whose products were used in aqueous film forming foam (“AFFF,” an agent which is used to extinguish “Class B” fires fueled by petroleum) contained certain PFAS chemicals, or the chemical precursors to certain PFAS chemicals, which they allege are biopersistent in the environment and the water supply, bioaccumulative in flora and fauna and toxic to humans. Plaintiffs have filed hundreds of cases, both as purported class actions and individual cases, and allege a variety of claims seeking damages for personal injuries, medical monitoring, property damage and environmental contamination. Cliff Brinson, along with business litigation trial and appellate practitioner Mike Mitchell, has been representing First Citizens Bank in class-action lawsuits filed around the country alleging that the client, as well as numerous other financial institutions, failed to comply with federal Small Business Act regulations in connection with Paycheck Protection Program loans. Mitchell also acts for Lubbock National Bank, the trustee of an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) sponsored by TBM Consulting Group. TBM’s founder wished to sell most of his shares in the company to the ESOP. Neither the ESOP nor the company had the funds to purchase the founder’s shares and so the company borrowed the money and then loaned that money to the ESOP for the transaction. The transaction closed in 2011, and, nearly six years later, TBM and some participants in the ESOP sued Lubbock in federal court in North Carolina claiming that the price paid for the founder’s shares was excessive. Lubbock asserted counterclaims against several of the plaintiffs, as well as third-party claims against other fiduciaries. Christopher Smith, another commercial litigation trial and appellate partner, is cheered for his ability to try a case as well as “equally knowing when and how to avoid litigation and having the nuanced ability to know when to resort to either option.” Smith represents the North Carolina Farm Bureau in the lead test case of a dispute in which nearly $1 billion in claimed tax credits by taxpayers is at issue.

Labor and employment
Robinson Bradshaw

Robinson Bradshaw maintains a significant and extensive reputation especially throughout North Carolina and the Southeastern region. As part of the litigation department, the labor and employment practice maintains an active presence in courts around the region.

Charles Johnson has been particularly active in employment litigation. He has handled several class and collective actions recently, including one representing the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice in a wage-and-hour class action originally consisting of 16,000 former and current correctional officers and sergeants. The court conditionally certified the class and the case is ongoing. In a related case, Johnson is also defending the client against the lead plaintiff in the class and collective action. The plaintiff alleges he was terminated in retaliation for his involvement in the class action.

In a matter that was resolved, Johnson defended Facebook in a lawsuit alleging race discrimination and harassment. He, along with Angelique Vincent-Hamacher, prevailed against the claims on a granted motion for summary judgment, but the Fourth Circuit reversed in part and remanded the case. Johnson and Vincent-Hamacher resolved the case afterwards and it was dismissed in March. 

Julian Wright is also actively engaged in an FLSA action alleging failure to pay overtime wages. Wright defends Lalaja, a Mexican restaurant, the related catering business and the owners. The case is in early stages and Wright has briefed on the preliminary class certification.

Pearlynn Houck maintains a practice that mixes both labor and employment and complex business disputes. She is representing Synergy Holdings against a 10-count complaint filed by a former employee who was terminated. Houck is defending against breach of contract, fraud, securities violations, wrongful termination and various other claims. In addition, the plaintiff is alleging that she was terminated based on age discrimination in violation of the ADA. Houck awaiting the verdict of a pending motion to dismiss.

Smith Anderson

Smith Anderson is headquartered in North Carolina where the firm maintains a labor and employment practice with lawyers dedicated entirely to the practice area. Recently, the group has defended numerous nationally known clients and cases that have garnered significant media attention.

Kerry Shad is one of the leading labor and employment litigators in North Carolina and has recently earned a spot on Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list. Shad has been representing fellow full-service North Carolina law firm Myers Bigel and the managing partner. A former partner alleged that they were misclassified and should have been considered an employee and protected under Title VII. Shad successfully defended the law firm and obtained a full dismissal and the court also denied the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend. The case went up to the Fourth Circuit and affirmed the lower court’s decision in a published opinion. Shad has also been active representing nationwide clients like Blue Cross Blue Shield and GlaxoSmithKline in employment cases in courts throughout the US.

Zebulon Anderson often represents clients in disputes that involve business issues. He represents Brady Trane Services in a matter against a former employee who had agreed to a new employment agreement regarding a new position that did not include commission payments under the new compensation model. The plaintiff alleged that he was fraudulently induced to agree to such an agreement and asserted alleged claims of fraud and quantum meruit. The court granted Anderson’s motion for judgment that was granted in 2019; however, the plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed the fraud claim and affirmed the quantum meruit claim. In another employment matter, Anderson has been defending C&S Rail Services and owners against five former African-American employees who alleged claims of race harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and FMLA violations against the clients. Anderson successfully defended the client against many of the claims in a motion for partial dismissal that was mostly granted, limiting the client’s exposure.