It is easy to list the large financial awards we have secured for our clients. A $7.52 million settlement for a man wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit. A $3.25 million jury verdict for five women sexually harassed at work. A $2.75 million settlement for the victim of a police shooting.
But we are just as proud of how we have fought to advance all citizens’ civil rights. A consent decree desegregating the entire UNC system. A North Carolina Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing injured workers the right to lifetime medical expenses through workers’ compensation. Class actions compensating thousands of workers who suffered from race and sex discrimination.
All too often, it seems the law exists to protect the rich and powerful. At Patterson Harkavy, we fight to make sure that it also protects working people.
Beyond winning individual cases, our attorneys have secured some of the most important appellate decisions defining and expanding the scope of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system.
For example, in Hyler v. GTE Prod. Co., 333 N.C. 258, 259, 425 S.E.2d 698, 699 (1993), we secured a ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court that established injured workers’ right to lifetime medical expenses.
In Pickrell v. Motor Convoy, Inc., 322 N.C. 363, 366, 368 S.E.2d 582, 584 (1988), we secured a ruling making it easier for surviving next-of-kin to recover death benefits.
In Shoemaker v. Creative Builders, 150 N.C. App. 523, 528, 563 S.E.2d 622, 625 (2002), we secured a ruling that workers are not required to participate in vocational rehabilitation when it is futile.
In Wilkes v. City of Greenville, 369 N.C. 730, 746, 799 S.E.2d 838, 849 (2017), we secured a ruling that workers need not rely on expert testimony to establish that a work search would be futile.
Our attorneys know how to fight for your workers’ compensation benefits because we have spent decades shaping workers’ compensation law.
Our attorneys are also at the forefront of the fight for workers’ rights, expanding workers’ legal protections and securing some of the largest settlements and jury verdicts in state history.
For example, in Randleman v. Johnson, we secured a settlement valued at more than $600,000 on behalf of an Alamance County deputy sheriff who believed he was terminated because he testified truthfully in a trial alleging the sheriff’s department engaged in racial discrimination
In Sargent v. Murray Savings Association, we secured the largest sexual harassment jury verdict in state history in a case involving five sexually harassed women in Wake County.
We have also advanced the rights of large groups of employees through class actions and challenges to unconstitutional government conduct.
For example, in Bazemore v. Friday, Burton Craige represented the United States at trial and on appeal in a suit on behalf of black employees of the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, resulting in a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court and compensation for victims of racial discrimination in salaries and promotions.
In Grogan v. The American Tobacco Company, we successfully litigated a class action on behalf of hundreds of victims of sex discrimination at the defendant’s headquarters plant in Reidsville.
In North Carolina Association of Educators v. North Carolina, we obtained a unanimous ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court restoring public school teachers’ employment protections.
Labor Union Activities
Our attorneys have been at the core of North Carolina’s labor movement since the 1970s. We played a lead role numerous cases against J.P. Stevens during the most vigorous organizing effort ever seen in the South, including the Halifax County union campaign that inspired the 1979 feature film Norma Rae.
More recently, we supported the successful unionization campaign at the Smithfield Foods plant in Bladen County, stood beside workers fighting for a higher minimum wage in the Fight for 15 campaign, and represented Duke University’s adjunct faculty in one of the first successful union campaigns of private university faculty in the South.
We also regularly secure victories for labor unions in private arbitration, before the National Labor Relations Board, and in federal court. See, e.g., Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 289 v. Verizon S., Inc., 533 F. App’x 319, 320 (4th Cir. 2013) (affirming an order compelling arbitration); UGL UNICCO v. Local Lodge No. 2541, 723 F. Supp. 2d 844 (E.D.N.C. 2010) (enforcing labor arbitration award over an employer’s objections).
Constitutional Rights & Civil Liberties
Patterson Harkavy has a proud record of fighting for North Carolinians’ Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties.
We have obtained six- and seven-figure jury verdicts and settlements in cases involving abuse of authority, police shootings, excessive force, and racially-motivated policing. In recent years, we have obtained numerous multi-million dollar settlements on behalf of those wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit, including Dwayne Dail, ($7.52 million); Greg Taylor ($4.6 million); Willie Grimes ($5.4 million); and Joseph Sledge ($4 million).
We also engage in impact litigation to ensure the government respects all peoples’ rights. For example, in Atkins v. Scott, we were lead counsel in a case resulting in a consent decree desegregating the entire UNC system. In Small v. Martin, we secured a ruling from the Eastern District of North Carolina improving the conditions in state prisons. In Willie M. v. Hunt, we secured a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that established a statewide right to treatment services for troubled youths.
Our attorneys have also helped ensure that elections are fair and equitable. We successfully changed the method of electing county commissioners, city councils, and boards of education in many North Carolina communities, most recently through a 2017 consent decree ensuring that African American residents of Jones County have representation on their county commission. In Edwards v. Berger, we obtained an injunction preventing the North Carolina General Assembly from retroactively changing the rules to the 2018 general election.
At Patterson Harkavy, we are proud of our success representing criminal defendants at trial, on appeal, and in post-conviction proceedings.
At the criminal investigation and trial court level, for over 20 years Brad Bannon has helped clients avoid charges, convictions, and maximum punishments in cases ranging from misdemeanor assaults to first-degree murder. His successful work on behalf of clients has been featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary film Fantastic Lies, Episode 10 of the Netflix documentary series The Staircase, and the 48 Hours documentary episode A Killer Defense.
Our attorneys have also successfully pursued capital appeals and post-conviction proceedings on behalf of those sentenced to death. For example, in Conaway v. Polk, 453 F.3d 567 (4th Cir. 2006), we obtained an order requiring that the district court hold a hearing over claims of juror bias, and ultimately obtained a new trial for a defendant previously sentenced to death. In State v. Gregory, 342 N.C. 580 (1996), we obtained a new trial for a man sentenced to death after the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed that a conversation between the sentencing judge and a juror denied the defendant his right to a fair trial.
We also regularly represent criminal defendants on direct appeal, successfully obtaining opinions that reverse convictions and reduce sentences. See State v. Stanley, 817 S.E.2d 107, 108 (2018) (reversing convictions after finding that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment); State v. Ferrer, 818 S.E.2d 697, 698 (2018) (reversing a conviction based on insufficient evidence); State v. Everrette, 807 S.E.2d 168 (2017) (reversing convictions based on faulty indictments).
These results represent the firm’s history and commitment to fighting powerful interests on behalf of people who are comparatively powerless. But every case is different, and no outcome is ever guaranteed, and the results for these clients do not guarantee similar results for other clients.