Poyner Spruill Welcomes Education Law Practice Group

Poyner Spruill LLP won a $1.8 million verdict last week for a whistleblower who reported a criminal scheme between two district attorneys.  The whistleblower, Debra Halbrook, discovered in 2016 that the Person County District Attorney Wallace Bradsher had hired the Rockingham District Attorney’s wife for a no-show job, collecting paychecks from taxpayers that she did not earn.  Halbrook reported the criminal scheme to the State Bureau of Investigation, but when her boss, Bradsher, discovered that she was the whistleblower, he fired her.

Last week, a Wake County jury awarded $1.8 million to Halbrook.  The verdict included $600,000 in economic damages and $1.2 million in non-economic damages.  The jury deliberated for approximately one hour before delivering its unanimous verdict.

Poyner Spruill attorneys Drew Erteschik, Emily Meeker, and David Long were Ms. Halbrook’s trial counsel.  Poyner Spruill attorneys J.M. Durnovich, Colin McGrath, and Stephanie Gumm were also essential to the firm’s efforts on behalf of Ms. Halbrook throughout the three-year litigation.

“More than three years ago, Debbie Halbrook stood up for all of us when she reported Wallace Bradsher’s crimes,” Erteschik, Meeker, and Long said in a statement.  “He fired her for reporting those crimes, and it has been a long, hard road to get justice for her.  Now, at last, a Wake County jury has delivered that justice for Debbie.  She is gratified by the jury’s verdict, but she is most gratified by the fact that the justice system worked.”

As jurors exited the courtroom following their verdict, a number of them lined up to thank Ms. Halbrook.  One juror told her, “Thank you for standing up for us.”  Another juror told her, “We need more people like you.”

Poyner Spruill filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Halbrook on February 21, 2017.  The next day, the Wake County District Attorney’s Office began investigating the two district attorneys.  Both district attorneys soon resigned their elected positions.  Bradsher, who fired Ms. Halbrook, was ultimately convicted of multiple felonies and served time in prison.

“North Carolina’s whistleblower law protects the brave public servants who risk everything to come forward and report government wrongdoing,” Erteschik, Meeker, and Long said in their statement. “This verdict sends a message that these brave whistleblowers will be protected.”

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