Cliff Brinson litigates business disputes. He assists clients with a full range of commercial litigation matters, including corporate and securities litigation, contract disputes, and business-related tort and statutory claims. He also assists companies in internal investigations.
Cliff has successfully taken cases to trial and handled appeals in both federal and state courts, including the North Carolina Business Court. In 2010, Cliff helped a client obtain a $37 million judgment at trial in a commercial contract case, one of the largest jury verdicts in North Carolina history. The judgment was affirmed unanimously by the Court of Appeals in August 2012, and satisfied in full in September 2012 ($48.5 million including interest). In 2013, Cliff helped a client obtain a declaratory judgment at trial in another commercial contract case, resulting in cost savings to the client of over $100 million. Following trial, the court awarded the client over $1.2 million in fees and costs.
Cliff was previously an attorney in the securities enforcement group at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C.
Professional & Community Affiliations
- Co-Chair, Securities Litigation Subcommittee of the Commercial & Business Litigation Committee, American Bar Association
- North Carolina Business Court Rules Committee
- North Carolina Bar Association, Litigation Section
- Wake County Bar Association
Honors & Awards
- The Best Lawyers in America©, Litigation-Mergers and Acquisitions Law, Litigation-Securities (2018-2019)
- Benchmark Litigation, North Carolina State Litigation Star (2015-2019)
- Benchmark Litigation, North Carolina State Future Star (2009-2014)
- North Carolina Super Lawyers (2014-2019)
- North Carolina Super Lawyers, Rising Star (2010, 2012)
Corporate and Securities Litigation
- Defended a private equity firm in shareholder litigation challenging the firm’s proposed acquisition of a grocery store chain. After we filed a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff dismissed the case. Balint v. The Fresh Market, Inc., 16 CvS 4144 (Guilford County/N.C. Business Court).
- Defended a technology company and its officers in a shareholder lawsuit alleging securities fraud. We filed a motion to dismiss, and the lawsuit was dismissed by the Court. In re ChannelAdvisor Corp. Securities Litigation, 2016 WL 1381772 (E.D.N.C. 2016).
- Defended a special committee and the independent directors of a bank in shareholder litigation arising from a proposed merger. The litigation sought among other things to invalidate a bylaw requiring that certain shareholder actions be brought exclusively in North Carolina. In a precedent setting opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery enforced the bylaw and dismissed the case. City of Providence v. First Citizens Bancshares, Inc., 99 A.3d 229 (Del. Ch. 2014).
- Defended a clinical diagnostic company and its board of directors in shareholder litigation challenging the proposed acquisition of the company. A settlement was reached and the acquisition proceeded. Overby v. LipoScience, Inc., 14 CvS 13448 (Wake County/N.C. Business Court).
- Represented corrugated packaging companies in a post-closing dispute in which our client was attempting to collect on a deferred payment provision in the asset sale agreement. Summary judgment was granted in favor of our client for the full amount of the payment. Gallagher v. Southern Source Packaging, LLC, 568 F. Supp. 2d 624 (E.D.N.C. 2008).
- Represented a group of shareholders to obtain judicial dissolution of a corporation in which management had been wasting corporate assets in a case receiving local media attention. The dissolution was granted by the Court. Marosi v. M.F. Harris Research, Inc., 13 CvS 1230 (Carteret County).
- Represented a publisher of telephone directories in a breach of contract case against a national telecommunications company. After a bench trial, the Court ruled in our client’s favor on all issues and issued a declaratory judgment that saved our client over $100 million, and awarded our client over $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees. H. Donnelley Inc. v. Embarq Corp., 2013 WL 4005261 (N.C. Ct. App. 2013).
- Represented a blood plasma collection business in a breach of contract case against a pharmaceutical company. After a trial, the jury awarded our client $37 million plus interest. The judgment was affirmed on appeal and collected in full. Plasma Centers of America, LLC v. Talecris Plasma Resources, Inc., 731 S.E.2d 837 (N.C. Ct. App. 2012).
- Defended a hair products manufacturer against a breach of contract claim by a distributor. After extensive litigation, the distributor dismissed its claim. W.T. Distributing, Inc. v. Johnson Products Co., 3:13-cv-171 (W.D.N.C.).
- Represented tobacco manufacturers in North Carolina enforcement of the arbitration provision in a Master Settlement Agreement. Our clients were successful in getting the case sent to arbitration. State of North Carolina v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 666 S.E.2d 783 (N.C. Ct. App. 2008).
- Defended a bank in confidential arbitration arising out of a contract dispute with a customer regarding ownership of certain funds at the bank. After a full evidentiary hearing, the arbitrator issued an award favorable to the bank.
- Represented a nursing home owner to secure enforcement of an arbitration provision in its admission agreement with a resident. After numerous court filings, the resident ultimately agreed to abide by the arbitration provision. Durham III LLC v. Sexton, 5:11-cv-708 (E.D.N.C.).
Business-Related Torts and Statutory Claims
- Defended a venture capital firm and two of its principals in a lawsuit against allegations that they had engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices. The case was dismissed by the trial court and the dismissal was unanimously affirmed on appeal. Moch v. A.M. Pappas & Associates, LLC, 794 S.E.2d 898 (N.C. Ct. App. 2016).
- Defended a bank in numerous consumer class action lawsuits around the country alleging that the bank facilitated improper lending practices. Elder v. BMO Harris Bank, 8:13-cv-3043 (D. Md.) and others.
- Defended a provider of interlock ignition devices against a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the Consumer Leasing Act. The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court and the dismissal was unanimously affirmed on appeal. Cottle v. Monitech, Inc., 2017 WL 6519024 (E.D.N.C. 2017), affirmed 733 Fed. Appx. 136 (4th Cir. 2018).
- Represented a bank seeking to have a defamatory video regarding one of the bank’s employees taken down. The court ordered the video removed, and the order was unanimously affirmed on appeal. Springs v. Ally Financial Inc., 2017 684 Fed. Appx. 336 (4th Cir. 2017).
- Defended a bank in a consumer lawsuit asserting emotional distress, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and numerous other claims as a result of a death allegedly caused by an improper automobile repossession. All non-contract claims were dismissed by the court. Costin v. Ally Bank Corp., 2014 WL 130527 (E.D.N.C. 2014).
- Defended the estates of pilots working for a NASCAR racing company against claims of willful and wanton negligence in connection with a fatal plane crash. After a lengthy trial, the jury found in favor of our clients. Dorton v. Hendrick Motorsports, Inc., 792 F. Supp. 2d 870 (M.D.N.C. 2011).
- Defended a contractor who had been engaged by the United States government to rebuild municipal water and sewage facilities in Iraq against personal injury claims by an engineer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of our client, and unanimously affirmed on appeal. Ladd v. Research Triangle Institute, 335 Fed. Appx. 285 (4th Cir. 2009).
- Assisted a major university in investigating a security breach involving the improper disclosure of confidential and proprietary football game plan information to opposing teams.
- Assisted a bank in investigating suspicious deposit activity.
- Assisted a pharmaceutical company in investigating inconsistencies in clinical test results.
News & Publications
- North Carolina Super Lawyers Recognizes Forty Smith Anderson Lawyers as Super Lawyers and Rising Stars in 2019Super Lawyers, 01.24.2019
- Benchmark Litigation, 10.16.2018
- 2018 North Carolina Super Lawyers Recognizes Forty-three Smith Anderson Lawyers as Super Lawyers and Rising Stars01.25.2018
- Smith Anderson Litigators Explain the Shifting Trends in M&A Litigation Against U.S. Public CompaniesIR Update magazine, published by the National Investor Relations Institute, January/February Issue
- Litigation News - Published from the American Bar Association Section of Litigation, 02.04.2016
- Smith Anderson Represents General Parts International in $2.04 Billion Merger with Advance Auto Parts03.18.2014
- North Carolina Court of Appeals Affirms Plasma Centers of America’s $37 Million Verdict Against Talecris Plasma Resources08.08.2012
- “Disclosure Settlements” Live On In North Carolina Merger Litigation – But Will the Fee Awards Continue to Justify Lawsuits?01.22.2018
- The Death of Merger Litigation Part II – The North Carolina Business Court Puts a Nail in the Coffin12.06.2016
- 08.08.2016Published by the American Bar Association, "Commercial & Business Section of Litigation" and "Corporate Counsel Section of Litigation"
- Federal Appeals Court Emphasizes the Importance of Enforcing Contractual Limitations on Consequential Damages12.18.2015
- Tyranny of the Minority: North Carolina Business Court Explores Potential Fiduciary Duties of Minority Shareholders10.01.2015
- 03.2015Antitrust & Complex Business Dispute News (North Carolina Bar Association Antitrust & Complex Business Disputes Law Section Newsletter)
- 06.30.2014American Bar Association
- Fourth Circuit Clarifies Pleading Standards and (Again) Rejects Affidavits that Contradict a Party’s Deposition03.16.2014
- North Carolina Business Court Limits Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice Claims Concerning Internal Corporate Matters02.07.2014
- North Carolina Business Court Holds that Shareholders Cannot Directly Sue Officers and Directors in Merger Challenge11.22.2013
- Fourth Circuit Holds that Motor Carrier has No Claim Under Federal Law Against Shipper for Unpaid Freight Charges11.14.2013
- Defining the “Customer” for Purposes of Securities Arbitration, ABA Commercial & Business Litigation Committee website02.2013
- The New Federal Rules on Electronic Discovery05.2007Prognosis
- Forum Selection and Attorneys’ Fees Clauses in Contracts05.2006The Litigator
- Co-Presenter, "New Rules, New Strategies: Managing Discovery under the Amended Federal Rules," North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys Annual Conference, Asheville, N.C.06.2016
- Co-Presenter, "Swords and Shields: An Overview of Current Topics in Public Company Merger Litigation," UNC's Festival of Legal Learning, Chapel Hill, N.C.02.2016
- Co-Presenter, "Is It Material?," Securities Breakfast Series11.2015
- Co-Presenter, "Building Better Bylaws," Smith Anderson's Executive Roundtable Series: Session II05.2015
- Proximity Hotel | Greensboro, N.C., 03.18.2015
- Speaker, "Cost-Effective Litigation: Winning the Case Without Breaking the Bank," Smith Anderson's Executive Roundtable Series - Session II03.2014
- Speaker, "Bringing Your Commercial Case Alive for Judge & Jury – Tips and Strategies for Effective Courtroom Presentation of Commercial Cases," North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys Annual Conference06.2011
- Speaker, "The New E-Discovery Rules: What Difference Do They Make?", North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys Fall Conference09.2006
Bar & Court Admissions
- North Carolina
- Numerous federal trial and appellate courts
Yale Law School, J.D., 1998
- Notes Editor on the Yale Law Journal
Duke University, B.A., 1993
- Law Clerk for the Hon. Gerald B. Tjoflat of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit