• 28 Jun 2016 12:38 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    John S. Willardson of Willardson Law Firm in Wilkesboro, NC, is the 2016 recipient of NC Association of Defense Attorneys highest award. The J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence recognizes NCADA members who exemplify the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and ethics and who conducts themselves in a civil, courteous manner with all persons. The recipient must exemplify sustained excellent service to individual and corporate defendants in civil litigation, to the Bar and to the community.

    Willardson, an NCADA member since 1984, served as President from 2000 to 2001 after more than a decade of active service as a leader in the Association. At the national level, Willardson served as NC’s State Representative to DRI, the voice of the defense bar, from 2004 to 2007, and then on DRI’s Board of Directors as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director from 2007 to 2010. Other professional activities include:

    • North Carolina State Bar Councilor for the 23rd District (current);
    • Member of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism;
    • Member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Council and the Committee for the Independence of the Judiciary;
    • Recipient of NCBA’s Citizen Lawyer Award in 2015;
    • Immediate Past President of the 23rd Judicial District Bar;
    • Past President of the UNC Law Alumni Association;
    • Past President of the Wilkes County Bar Association.

    Additionally, Willardson is a tireless volunteer in his community. In 2010, he was inducted into the YMCA’s Red Triangle Society by the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. Induction into the Red Triangle Society is the highest honor a Y volunteer can receive. Recipients demonstrate long-term and significant commitment, enthusiasm and dedication to the Y’s mission. Other community service activities include:

    • Chair of the Wilkes Family YMCA Board of Managers;
    • Chair of the Wilkes Family YMCA Annual Giving Campaign and served as a member on the Bandits Triathlon Committee, Board Development Committee, Finance Committee and Membership Committee;
    • Chaired the Merlefest Committee and worked as an event volunteer running the concession stand;
    • Board member for the North Wilkesboro Kiwanis Club, Wilkes Adult Developmental Activity Programs Inc., Hospice, Wilkes Art Gallery, Wilkes Babe Ruth League baseball and Wilkes Flying Club.

    Willardson is a native of Santa Monica, California and has lived and practiced in Wilkesboro, North Carolina for over 35 years after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he completed a double major in Spanish and political science. He served in the Army before attending UNC Law School where he obtained his J.D. in 1972.

    John Willardson is a true leader in the law and a servant leader in his community.

    North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) is a professional organization of nearly 900 attorneys and paralegals who devote a majority of their time representing the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. Visit us at

  • 24 Jun 2016 4:00 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    The North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) recently presented Dixie T. Wells with the Outstanding Volunteer Award for 2016. This Award recognizes an NCADA member or members for exceptional contributions and spotlights those who have gone “above and beyond” in his or her contributions to the organization.

    Dixie Wells is a partner with Ellis & Winters, LLP practicing in the firm’s Greensboro office where she represents clients in lawsuits involving engineering issues, higher education law, complex commercial transactions, and products liability. Wells and other members of the firm have carried on a tradition of providing a comprehensive appellate case law update twice annually at the NCADA’s Annual Meeting and Fall Seminar formerly led by firm partner emeritus, J. Donald Cowan, Jr. This bi-annual presentation provides a comprehensive analysis of recent case law.

    NCADA is pleased to recognize Wells for her invaluable contributions.

    About the NCADA: North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) is a professional organization of nearly 900 attorneys and paralegals who devote a majority of their time representing the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. Visit us at

  • 21 Jun 2016 2:36 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    The North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) held its 39th Annual Meeting in Asheville, North Carolina June 15-19, 2016. Several officers assumed new roles within the organization this year.

    A. Todd Brown was confirmed as the 39th President of the Association. Brown is a partner with Hunton & Williams practicing in the Charlotte office. He has handled a broad variety of complex litigation in federal and state courts over his 30 years of experience, with an emphasis on commercial disputes, business torts, catastrophic personal injuries, consumer lending, unfair competition, and trade secrets litigation. Brown received his J.D. in 1986 from the University of South Carolina.

    David W. Hood is Immediate Past President. Hood is a partner with Patrick Harper & Dixon, LLP in Hickory. He is a trial attorney with a wide-ranging civil practice. His concentrations include Insurance Defense, Business Disputes, Construction Law, Bankruptcy – Creditors’ Rights, and Collections. He is also a certified mediator, helping to settle cases pending in both state and federal court. Hood received his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1991. Hood was presented the “DRI Exceptional Performance Award” and the NCADA recognized him for his year of service during the conference.

    Dayatra T. Matthews assumes the position of President-Elect. Matthews is Senior Vice President of Legal & Compliance for the Local Government Federal Credit Union in Raleigh. As SVP of the Credit Union’s Legal and Compliance Department, Matthews is in charge of ensuring all Credit Union business is conducted in compliance with relevant state and federal laws and regulations. Matthews received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 1997. Matthews served as program chair this year, and was instrumental in securing engaging and informative content and speakers for the two-day CLE program. Breakout sessions included topics relating to Construction law, Commercial law, General Liability, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability, Government Liability and Workers Compensation. The diverse group of panelists and speakers offered trial strategy and briefed members on current trends and recent decisions.

    Larry M. Baker was elected to the office of Executive Vice President. Baker practices with Willson Jones Carter & Baxley, P.A. in the firm’s Charlotte office. He has been practicing insurance defense litigation in Charlotte, NC since 1990. Larry handles both workers’ compensation and civil litigation matters at both trial and appellate levels. Baker received his J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1990. Baker previously served a 3-year term as a member of the Board of Directors and one year as Secretary.

    Allen C. Smith was elected to a 2-year term as Secretary. Smith is a partner with Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo, LLP in Charlotte. He is the leader of the Trucking and Transportation Practice Group and devotes much of his time to defending serious personal injury and wrongful death claims associated with truck accidents and motor vehicle negligence. He also defends products liability, construction defect, and premises liability claims. Smith obtained his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1992. He previously served a 3-year term on the Board of Directors and is a past chair of the General Liability Practice Group.

    F. Lach Zemp was elected to a 2-year term as Treasurer. Zemp, a partner with Roberts & Stevens, P.A. in Asheville, has over 25 years of experience trying cases and representing a variety of professional, outdoor-recreation, industry, and business interests in state and federal courts. actively litigate cases in a variety of areas, including professional and medical malpractice and licensure cases, commercial / business cases, and products liability cases. He obtained his J.D. from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1990.

    The NCADA welcomed the following NEW members to the Board of Directors:

    • Hunt K. Choi, Deputy City Attorney, City of Raleigh
    • H. Mark Hamlet, Hamlet & Associates, PLLC, Wilmington
    • Sonny S. Haynes, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, Winston-Salem
    • J.D. Keister, McAngus Goudelock & Courie, LLP, Raleigh
    • William M. Starr, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, Charlotte

    ABOUT the NCADA: North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) is a professional organization of nearly 900 attorneys and paralegals who devote a majority of their time representing the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. For more information about the N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys, please contact (919) 239-4463 or visit


  • 25 May 2016 1:30 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    David W. Hood, President, 2016-2017

    Well, here is something most folk have been looking forward to! This is my last President’s Message before the NCADA Presidency is passed to my worthy successor, Todd Brown from the Charlotte office of Hunton & Williams. It has been a true honor and pleasure for me to serve in this capacity, and to have this opportunity to say a few words at the beginning of each issue of The Resource.

    When I took over last June, I suggested a plan of action for our organization that had three components. First, I challenged us to “Broaden our Base”, a focus on recruitment. There has been significant progress on this front. We have used new methods to encourage our current members to find and propose new members. Also, we now have some expectations in place for Board members and others to be involved in this process, not just the Membership Committee. As part of our recruitment efforts, we have also reached out to subsets of our members, such as Trucking and Financial Services, to determine what we can do better to cater to their needs and thus encourage others in such practice areas to join. The Immediate Past President now serves as the chair of the Membership Committee, so I look forward to continuing our progress in this area during the 2016-17 year.

    Second, I challenged the NCADA to “Bolster our Brand.” I suggested that we refine our messaging and our story to better communicate who we are, what we do, and where we want to be. This has involved an increased role for Practice Group leadership in programming and communications, an initiative to better identify us as THE voice for lawyers in North Carolina who represent business interests, and a stated goal to deepen our already strong commitment to diversity in the leadership of our organization. I believe we have also made good gains in this second part of our plan, and this will continue in the Fall as we participate with other statewide organizations in the sponsorship of a series of candidate debates for the November elections.

    Third, I proposed that we as an organization “Boost our Benefits” so that NCADA members get even more bang for their buck. In addition to our normal programming, one way we boosted our benefit this year was to start the first NCADA Winter Workshop in January. This was a CLE focused on general programming in the morning for everyone, with the whole afternoon devoted to Practice Group-specific topics. Thanks to the hard work of the CLE chair J.D. Keister, Lynette, and others, this was a great addition to our offerings that I hope will continue in future years. We also have Board members working on new projects such as a Speakers Bureau, an Expert Witness Database, and help for NCADA members who serve as mediators.

    So, in short. Progress made, and more progress expected going forward. I’d like to thank our Board, and especially the five members about to rotate off, for their hard work this year. I’d like to thank all the Practice Group and Committee leaders for putting up with my seemingly endless requests for assistance and leadership in carrying out this little plan of mine. I’d like to praise our current Executive Committee for their dedication to the growth and development of our organization. And, of course, I’d like to highlight the awesomeness that is Executive Director Lynette Pitt – without her, ain’t nuthin good gonna happen no how for the NCADA.

  • 27 Apr 2016 1:45 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    David W. Hood, President, 2015-2016

    Hello again, and welcome to our April edition of the NCADA’s monthly newsletter, The Resource.  This month I want to remind you all that while membership in the NCADA is a good first step towards improving your practice, involvement in the necessary next step.  There are several opportunities coming up for you to take this next step, and I encourage you to take advantage. 

    First, of course, we have the Annual Meeting in June.  Additional information is available elsewhere in this issue, but right now I want to focus on one of the many reasons you should be registering for this event in Asheville.  There will be a number of judges in attendance, from both the trial and appellate courts, as well as the Industrial Commission (the new Chair Charlton Allen included.)  This is an excellent chance to get to know these folks apart from representation in particular cases, and that knowledge will help you become a better advocate and a better lawyer overall.  Given the number of social events forming part of this year’s programming, making those contacts with not only the judiciary but fellow lawyers from around the state will be easy, and, in my opinion, extremely productive.  So go to our awesome website and register today.

    Second, if you are able to be in the Raleigh area on May 12, you should sign up to attend the Judicial Reception to start at 5:30 at Jimmy V’s Osteria and Bar.  We sponsor these judicial receptions at five different locations in North Carolina, and they are another great way to meet and greet the judiciary and fellow lawyers in your area.  I have been to several of these outside of my geographic region, and can tell you the value of this type of networking even if you just happen to be in the area from out-of-town.  This is not a seminar, so no programming per se, but just an opportunity for social interaction.  Use it. 

    Finally, new members or those without heavy NCADA involvement so far often ask me how best to become more involved.  In addition to going to events as mentioned above, the next thing to do is to contact the Practice Group leadership in one or more of your areas of practice, and offer to help.  (Other options would include the Committees for Young Lawyers, Women Litigators, and Diversity).  The Chairs and Vice-Chairs are always looking for help, and would be glad to put you to work in some fashion.  Become the type of person that folk can rely on for assistance – that could lead all sorts of places for you, including into leadership positions if you are interested in that.  The leadership team for Practice Groups and selected Committees is profiled elsewhere on the website, for your convenience.

    I hope to see you at a future NCADA event!


  • 23 Mar 2016 6:28 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    David W. Hood, President, 2015-2016

    Hello again, NCADA members and hangers-on!   As current President of our organization, I want to bring y’all up to speed on a few things happening in our world as we continue our mission to strengthen the practice of lawyers who defend individuals and represent business in civil litigation.

    Probably the most important topic right now would be the ongoing preparations for our Annual Meeting, to take place for the first time this year in Asheville, June 16-19, at the Omni Grove Park Inn.  The convention location (Grove Park) is fabulous, June in Asheville is fabulous, and the program is shaping up to be just as fabulous!  The Annual Meeting is not only our organization’s best opportunity to get to know other defense lawyers and judges from around the state, it is also both educational and fun.  Go to the website link and register today.  Yes, I mean right now.  You can come back to this column afterwards.

    We just hosted our first Winter Workshop back in late January, with general session topics in the morning and Practice Group-specific programming in the afternoon.  This was a trial run, and I believe was a big success.  We had a nice turnout, and some truly excellent presentations at The Solution Center in Durham, right off I-40.  If you missed it you, well, really missed something – but if you did attend and have not yet given us feedback, please do so.  We want to use that input to plan an event better workshop for early 2017.

    It is also the time of year when NCADA leadership positions rotate to new folk.  If you have ever wanted to get more involved in your particular Practice Group, or in the organization as a whole, this would be a great opportunity to contact me, Executive Director Lynette Pitt, or our President-Elect Todd Brown about how you can become active in a committee, group, or project of the organization.  We’d love to talk to you about your interests in that regard.

    Finally, with the General Assembly about to go back to Raleigh for its “Short Session”, as well as with important cases always cycling through our appellate courts, I wanted you all to know that the NCADA will continue its role of helping to advocate for our positions with each branch of state government.  We have an active Legislative Committee that works with our lobbyist, Bob Kaylor, on pending bills.  We provide assistance and advice to members of both the legislative and executive branches on appointments and other important issues.  Through our Amicus Committee, we advocate directly for legal principles important to our membership pending in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.  The NCADA is an active organization, and we are proud of that fact.

    Thanks for your own involvement with the NCADA.  See you in Asheville!

  • 29 Feb 2016 2:58 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    Nominations are being accepted for the 2016 J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence. In honor of the life and career of J. Robert Elster, the second president of the Association, the NCADA renamed this Award in 2007.

    Please nominate a present or past member of the NCADA for consideration as a possible recipient of the Award for Professional Excellence that will be presented at the Annual Meeting, June 16-19, 2016. Your letter of nomination should be addressed to David W. Hood, President, c/o Lynette Pitt, Executive Director, NCADA, 3700 National Drive, Ste 212, Raleigh, NC 27612. The letter should reference the "J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence," include the name and current address of your nominee, along with supporting information and any appropriate documentation you believe will help the Awards Committee in making a recommendation to the Board of Directors. Your letter must be received at the Raleigh office no later than Friday, March 25, 2016.

    Criteria: The recipient shall be a present, or former, member of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys. The recipient must exemplify the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and ethics, and conduct herself, or himself, in a civil, courteous manner with all persons. The recipient must exemplify sustained, excellent service to individual and corporate defendants in civil litigation, to the Bar, and to the community.

    Other factors that may be considered are involvement in judicial or other professional educational activities; participation in activities that improve the civil justice system; and such other criteria as the Board or Awards Committee shall determine to be important to the extraordinary achievement intended to be recognized by this Award.

    Nomination and Selection:  Nominations shall be by current members of the NCADA.

    The Awards Committee shall receive all nominations in confidence. It shall review the nominations, and if a recipient is selected, shall confidentially recommend a recipient of the Award to the Board of Directors of the NCADA. If the Award recipient is approved by the Board of Directors, the Awards Committee shall prepare an outline of the presentation to be made by the President of the NCADA at the Annual Meeting, and shall obtain the Award on behalf of the NCADA for presentation.

    The Award is intended as a special recognition, and it is not necessary that an Award be given as often as annually.

    Print nominations memo

  • 29 Jan 2016 5:30 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    David W. Hood, President, 2015-2016

    Folks, it's your NCADA President here again with an official welcome to this month's edition of our newsletter, The Resource. This month I want to issue a challenge to every member who is reading this. Stop what you are doing, right now, and pay attention. This is important.

    Membership organizations need to add new members just to keep up with natural attrition of the membership list, if nothing else. And the way that the vast majority of new people join an organization is for a current member to ask them. Just like for every other civic or professional club, this is true for the NCADA.

    I need your help, dear member. Think of someone with whom you are dealing in a current case. Could be counsel for a co-defendant. Could be opposing counsel. Could be another lawyer in you own firm with whom you handling the case. It just needs to be a lawyer who primarily represents business , government entities, or insureds in civil litigation. Think of someone that you are not sure is a current NCADA member, someone you think would be a good addition but you can't remember ever seeing them before at an NCADA event.

    Double-check to see if this prospect if already a member. This is easy to do now on our spiffy new website. Here's the link you need:

    I know you're still with me. You gots the name. Now, gets the email and/or phone number. You know what is coming next - ask them to join! Yes. I mean right now. Send the email. Or, if you are really chicken and would rather someone else ask them, send the contact info to me at and I'll do it.

    This is a process I went through myself several times since I became Prez. And it has worked most of the time - the majority of folk I have asked have said yes. I'm not asking you to contact a buncha people. Just one.

    And when you have done this successfully, let me know so I can use your story to encourage others to do this. It is VERY easy. And it is VERY important. Thanks for your commitment to the NCADA!

  • 30 Nov 2015 4:41 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    David W. Hood, President, 2015-2016

    Hello out there to everyone in NCADA-land! This is your friendly neighborhood President, here again to focus your attention on another aspect of the NCADA experience. In my earlier messages, I focused on membership recruitment being a "wonderful thing" and then on involvement in NCADA activities being a "wonderful thing." Keeping with that theme, I want to concentrate this month on our CLE offerings. Which are, well, wonderful in my opinion.

    As you know, our two big CLE events of the year are the Fall Seminar in Greensboro and the Annual Meeting in June, which this coming year will be held in Asheville for the first time. In addition to these, we usually have several half or full day programs scattered throughout the year, put on by one or more committee or Practice Group of our organization.

    I am pleased to announce that, for the first time, we have decided that instead of starting those additional programs from scratch every year, we will put on a Winter Workshop in January - a full day seminar including general topics for everyone in the morning, and then area-of-practice-specific content put on by all of our Practice Groups in the afternoon. We hope this will be a significant added benefit to our membership, as well as to non-members as well. Not only will the event help to get those last minute CLE hours before the February deadline, it will allow time for our Practice Groups to have organizational meetings, networking, and educational programming that is much more focused on practice-specific topics. The Fall and Annual meetings have great content, but our members that have very specific practices could probably benefit very much from an entire afternoon of CLE geared to developments in their respective areas.

    The event will be held in Durham, at The Solution Center on January 29. More details are available elsewhere in this issue. Thanks to J.D. Keister of McAngus Goudelock in Raleigh for heading up this effort, to all the Practice Groups and committees involved in pulling it off, and to Lynette Pitt for her facilitation of the whole process. They have done their jobs - now it is up to you! Support this effort by coming, by encouraging other lawyers in your office to come, and by participating in the organizational meeting and educational programming planned for the Practice Group to which you belong.

    It's a great chance to get in on the ground floor for an event we hope will become a permanent part of our NCADA offerings. See you at the Winter Workshop in January!

  • 27 Oct 2015 12:30 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    David W. Hood, President 2015-2016

    Welcome to this edition of the NCADA's monthly publication, The Resource! In my last message, I argued for the proposition that Membership is a Wonderful Thing. And, well, it is.

    Now let me propose another thought - Involvement is a Wonderful Thing. Membership in the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys is great, of course, but in order to truly utilize this opportunity both to enhance your practice and improve as a lawyer, I encourage you to get up off that bench and get into the game!

    How should you start? I think a great beginning would be to check out our spiffy new website at If you are relatively new to the organization, it should help you get acclimated to our organization, our leadership, and our programming. There are forums available for discussion of current topics of relevance to our eight Practice Groups and other committees. You can read content from past issues of The Resource.

    Once you get your feet wet, try to determine which part of our mission seems most relevant either to your current practice or what you want your practice to become. If you would like to become more involved in, say, the Commercial Litigation Practice Group, then contact the current Chair Greg Holland and volunteer to help him with planning CLE material, or writing for The Resource, or begin a discussion thread on the Commercial forum on the website. If, on the other hand, you would like to offer your brief-writing services for our Amicus program, contact Committee Chair George Simpson about what opportunities may exist in that area. If you want to help promote diversity in our organization, then contact our Diversity Committee Chair Viral Mehta and see how you can contribute.

    There are a multitude of possibilities open to you. Your first step, though, it to make the decision to step out of those shadows of non-involved membership. Put yourself into the sunlight of vibrant, active participation in this talented group we call the NCADA. If you want to discuss more generally how we can best benefit from your awesomeness, then by all means contact our Executive Director Lynette Pitt, or you can take your chances with an email to me, your current President, at

    Without your help, we cannot become all we could be. Come on, do it. You know you want to.

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