RALEIGH, N.C. — Poyner Spruill partner Chad Essick’s pro bono work recently resulted in a Legal Aid of North Carolina client receiving overdue compensation from a landlord.

In the case, the client never moved into the residence, but the landlord pocketed the first month’s rent and deposit, while allowing another tenant to move into the unit. Essick filed a lawsuit on the tenant’s behalf to recover damages suffered by the client and requested the damages be trebled under North Carolina law. After suit was filed, the landlord filed for bankruptcy. This led to an unsecured “proof of claim” being filed in the bankruptcy case and the client receiving $500 in a separate adversarial proceeding to recover the security deposit that was paid. Essick and the client did not expect any further recovery given the secured creditors ahead of the client in the bankruptcy case.

However, Essick unexpectedly received a $2,360 check late last month from the bankruptcy trustee for the client’s claim as unsecured creditor.

“I’m thrilled to have helped this client recoup the monetary loss suffered after all this time,” Essick said. “Pro bono work can be incredibly rewarding when you help create a positive outcome for a person who otherwise wouldn’t have access to needed legal services. The client was very emotional when I was able to pass along the news about the final payment.”

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.

“This is an outstanding result for the client given the difficult circumstances,” said Nathan Koenning, Legal Aid of North Carolina’s pro bono coordinator in their Central Intake Unit. “It’s also a neat example of creditors’ rights being used to compensate a victim.”

“His terrific work — and persistence — on behalf of our client is much appreciated,” said George Hausen, Legal Aid of North Carolina’s executive director.

Essick’s practice at Poyner Spruill involves representing landowners, developers, and local governments in state and federal court and administrative proceedings on myriad land use, zoning, and real estate issues. These include vested rights, constitutional matters, zoning ordinance interpretations, local government authority, title issues, and property tax disputes.

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