Erna has more than 26 years of legal experience in all phases of products liability defense and life, health and disability insurance/ERISA issues. Her work has included:
- Learning the intricacies of her clients’ business and industry to enable her to provide advice and counsel at all levels of corporate decision making, well beyond the issues raised by litigation. She has guided clients in handling such critical and sensitive issues as product recalls, timely interactions with regulatory agencies, management turnover, and has participated in interviewing national candidates and in recruitment of key executives and other client personnel.
- Providing professional guidance to organizations and individuals in all facets of written and verbal communications, including preparing senior executives for public presentations and hearings, working with employees and personnel unfamiliar with adversary proceedings for public speaking, trial or deposition testimony, and drafting press releases involving complex issues – to help empower men and women of all backgrounds and differing levels of sophistication succeed in developing and presenting their best work.
- Serving, for a solid decade, as National Coordinating Counsel for one of the world’s largest school bus manufacturers, overseeing all litigation and insurance, working with the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and counseling senior management on a full spectrum of challenges including employer/employee matters, strategic decision making, and other issues ancillary to law practice which intersect with the successful management of a business entity.
- Representing Life, Health and Disability insurers in ERISA and other litigation, primarily in federal courts and state courts throughout North Carolina.
- Defending claims against individuals and various manufacturers of general products such as automobiles, silicone breast implants, and other consumer products, including class actions and federal multi-district litigation.
- Honored by industry and her peers for her longtime service to the national Products Liability Advisory Council (PLAC), which awarded her its Distinguished Service Award in 2007. Erna Womble is only the 14th recipient of the award since the Products Liability Advisory Council was founded 30 years ago in 1983.
- Actively serving in leadership roles with the Life, Health and Disability/ERISA committee of the Defense Research Institute (DRI); DRI Seminar paper and presentation: “Disabling Rambo: Dealing with Unsavory Litigation Tactics and Resulting Ethical Issues,” Washington, D.C.; April 2004. DRI Seminar paper and presentation: “National Case Law Update on Disability/ERISA Insurance Law”, Washington, D.C.; April 2002. Program Chair: DRI 2002 Seminar: Life, Health, Disability and ERISA issues; Washington, D.C.; April 2002. DRI Publication: “‘Legal’ and ‘Factual’ Disability in the Defense of Disability Insurance Claims”, Life and Health News, Spring 1998.
- Recognition by her peers as one of the country’s leading lawyers by Best Lawyers in America, 2006-present; by North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine, 2006-present; the national Corporate Counsel edition of Super Lawyers in 2008 and 2009, and holds an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell.
- Co-author of North Carolina chapter of Misrepresentation in the Life, Health and Disability Insurance Application Process: A National Survey, ABA Publishing Company, American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610-4714.
- Co-Author of Rescission of Coverage under ERISA Plans, DRI magazine, For the Defense, September 2009.
- Contributing Author, Chapter 4, “Fourth Circuit”, ERISA Survey of Federal Circuits, 2007, ABA Publishing, American Bar Association, 321 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610-4714.
- Co-course planner, North Carolina Bar Association Professional Responsibility Seminar, “Dealing In A Professional Way With Unprofessional Adversaries,” February 2000.
- NCADA presentation: “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” October 1997.
- NCADA paper and presentation: “Punitive Damages in North Carolina --¬ 1996 Update,” October 1996.
- American Bar Association, Tort & Insurance Practice Section Newsletter, “Products, General Liability & Consumer Law Committee”, Spring 1991, pages 7 - 9, “Expansion of The Claim of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, A Review of Johnson v. Ruark Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates, P.A., 327 N.C. 283, 395 S.E.2d 95, reh'g denied, (1990).”
Professional and Civic Activities
- Forsyth County Bar Association
- North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA)
- Board of Directors (1998-2001; 2003-2006)
- American Bar Association, Litigation, Torts and Insurance Practice
- North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), Professionalism Committee (1997), Chairman (2004 to 2006)
- Permanent Member, U.S. Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference
- Product Liability Advisory Council (PLAC), Board of Directors (1996-2000), Executive Committee (1998-2000), Corporate Advisory Board (2000-2004)
- 2007 Distinguished Service Award from the Product Liability Advisory Council
- Co-Chair of the H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award, a subcommittee of the NCBA Professionalism Committee (2005 - present)
- NCBA Trial Practice Curriculum Committee (2002 to 2008)
- Member, Defense Research Institute (DRI), Life Health Disability/ERISA Law Committee, Product Liability Committee
- North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA), Board of Directors (1998-2001; 2003-2006)
- Law and the Humanities Steering Committee (2006)
- Board of Trustees, University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), 2013-present
- Centenary United Methodist Church, Staff Parish Relations Committee (2002-2012) (Vice-Chair, 2009; Chair, 2010); Member of Church Council Leadership Committee
- Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Co-Chair of Annual Campaign in 2008 with William F. “Bill” Womble, Jr.
- North Carolina Shakespeare Festival Board of Trustees, (2007 – 2010)
- Women’s Council – Forsyth Medical Center Foundation Philanthropy Committee (2008)
- Rotary Club of Winston-Salem (1998 – present); Board of Directors (2005; 2006; 2007) Paul Harris Fellow (1998)
- YMCA Camp Hanes; Board of Directors (1992-1999); Chairman, Board of Managers – (1996 and 1997)
- Work Family Resources Center; Board of Directors (1997-2001)
- United Way Women’s Leadership Council (2008 - present)
- Professional Women’s Forum (2007 - present)
Honors and Awards
- Erna is the winner of the 2007 Distinguished Service Award from the Product Liability Advisory Council and the 2010 Business Leader Media Women Extraordinaire Award.
- Best Lawyers in America, 2006-present
- North Carolina Super Lawyers, 2006-present
- AV-Rated, Martindale-Hubbell