Judge Dickert receives Justice Benham Award

As his nominators say, ” among fellow lawyers, members of the bench and citizens at large, there are a few, if any, who do not admire Neal Dickert for his many exceptional qualities: his kindness and humility; his service to his fellow citizens and his country; his service to his profession; and service to those throughout the community who need a helping hand.” Returning the the Augusta law firm Hull Barrett P.C. in 2008, Neal W. Dickert concentrates his practice in civil litigation, arbitration, and mediation. Dickert served for eleven years as Judge of the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit from January 1997 to November 2007 where he presided over civil, criminal, and domestic cases, including over 100 jury trials.Before his judicial service, Dickert practiced for more than twenty years with Hull Towill Norman & Barrett, P.C. from Augusta 1974 to 1996, handling matters in the State and Federal courts of Georgia and South Carolina. A trained mediator since 1994 he has mediated extensively, is listed in The Best Lawyers in America – Mediation and is a Paul C. Harris Fellow of Rotary International.

Judge Dickert received his J.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1974 and was a member of the South Carolina Law Review and Wig and Robe Scholastic Honorary Society. He earned his M.B.A from the University of South Carolina in 1969 and B.A. in Economics from the Wofford College in 1968. Judge Dickert is a U.S. Army veteran who served as First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps from 1969 – 1971  and with the Medical Group Headquarters in Vietnam from July 1970 until July 1971. He received the Bronze Star and Vietnam Service Medal. He was admitted to the South Caroline Bar in 1974 and the Georgia Bar in 1975.

Serving the Community

Dickert has served on the Board of Managers for nine years and as President for one and a half years for the Tuttle-Newton Home that started as an orphanage in 1852 and now serves families and at-risk children by providing scholarships, emergency assistance, and other financial help. He serves as Secretary of the Board of the Augusta Partnership for Children that fosters cooperation among groups serving at risk families and combats teen pregnancies. He and two other lawyers started the Augusta Bar Foundation three years ago which how has an endowment of over $100 000 and has given grants to organizations serving at risk youth. He serves on the Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Diocese, handling clergy disciplinary issues with the diocese and is a frequent speaker at local public schools and works with Communities in Schools.

Over the years, Dickert has served on the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education for Georgia (Chairman, 2005 -2007), Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia (1986-1990), president of the Augusta Rotary Club (1991-1992) and the Wofford College Alumni Association (President, 1996-1997). He has also served on the Board of Directors of the University of South Carolina Law School Association (1992-1998) and as a Senior Warden of the Church of the Good Shepherd (2004-2007).

Personal Life

Married to the former Floride Clarkson for 47 years, they have one son, Dr. Neal W. Dickert, Jr., an Assistant Professor of Cardiology at the Emory University School of Medicine.

See profile here

 -Published in the 18th Annual Justice Robert Benham Awards for Community Service Reception Program, Feb 28, 2017

George Hall is the Newest Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers

George R. Hall has become a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in North America.

The induction ceremony at which George R. Hall became a Fellow took place recently before an audience of approximately 800 persons during the recent 2016 Annual Meeting of the College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

About ACTL

Founded in 1950, the College is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States and Canada. Fellowship in the College is extended by invitation only and only after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers of diverse backgrounds, who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality. Lawyers must have a minimum of fifteen years trial experience before they can be considered for Fellowship.

Membership in the College cannot exceed one percent of the total lawyer population of any state or province. There are currently approximately 5800 members in the United States and Canada, including active Fellows, Emeritus Fellows, Judicial Fellows (those who ascended to the bench after their induction) and Honorary Fellows. The College maintains and seeks to improve the standards of trial practice, professionalism, ethics, and the administration of justice through education and public statements on important legal issues relating to its mission. The College strongly supports the independence of the judiciary, trial by jury, respect for the rule of law, access to justice, and fair and just representation of all parties to legal proceedings.

The College is thus able to speak with a balanced voice on important issues affecting the legal profession and the administration of justice.

American College of Trial LawyersGeorge Hall and Margaret Hall
at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the College
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Partnership to Raise Food, Funds, and Awareness

Hull Barrett, Ivey Residential, and The Augusta Chronicle are teaming up to participate in Legal Food Frenzy.

A company that is doing business in the community should also SERVE the community.  Hull Barrett realizes a mere monetary donation from the firm is not enough to make a real dent in the hunger stats that face the CSRA and surrounding areas.

Hull Barrett, Ivey Residential, and The Augusta Chronicle are looking to spend more time and effort to bring awareness to the food insecurity and hunger statistics, and more, to do something about it.

3 companies, working together, have a real shot at making a difference.  We have set an ambitious goal of 55,000 lbs of food and funds, a goal that cannot be met without the help of the public’s generosity.

So, What is Legal Food Frenzy?

The Office of the Attorney General, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia, and the Georgia Food Bank Association have joined forces to create a friendly food and fund drive to benefit food banks in Georgia from April 18 – April 29, 2016.

Hunger Facts

  • 1 in 5 Georgians struggle with hunger
  • 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger
  • Nearly 60% of Georgia’s public school children are eligible for free and reduced lunch
  • Golden Harvest distributed 229,000 pounds of food in its BackPack Program in 1 year
  • The BackPack program serves approximately 2,500 students
  • Golden Harvest feeds approximately 78,000 children
  • Golden Harvest is able to provide food to the children through the BackPack Program for $5 per week, per student – $180 covers the cost of 1 student for an entire year
  • Golden Harvest distributes 14.2 million pounds of food per year
  • Golden Harvest serves 30 counties

How to Help

Share this information with family, friends, and colleagues!

Food may be dropped off at any Hull Barrett or Ivey Residential office location.

Anyone that donates online will be entered to win a $50 Visa gift card or 4 tickets to the Morris Museum of Art! Hull Barrett will also be giving away additional prizes at random, including during the first week of the fundraiser. So don’t wait to donate online!

Golden Harvest serves all of the CSRA. Let’s work together to make our community less hungry.

Donate to Golden Harvest

Meet Jim Ouellette

Jim Ouellette is Hull Barrett’s newest associate.

Jim graduated from Notre Dame Law School and served as an Officer in the U.S. Navy for 21 years. After retirement from the JAG Corps as a Navy Commander, Jim joined Hull Barrett. Hull Barrett posted his professional bio here but also wanted the community get to know him on a personal level. Here is what Jim had to say in a recent interview:

Let’s start off with something easy. What is your favorite snack food?  

After spending three years in Italy, I would instinctively answer “red wine.”   However, if I must stick to “food” I do admit that I enjoy home-made chocolate chip cookies, especially when still soft and warm.

Wine and cookies! Good answer. Now for a question about your field: what fascinates you about the legal industry? 

As an attorney, I get to take part in a very complex and dynamic legal system which, although constantly, continues to operate on two very simple principles:  (1) seek justice, and (2) protect the innocent.

What do you value in leadership? 

A true leader sets the example, learns from the individuals they work with, and makes others want to follow them through trust in their capabilities and faith in their motivations.  There is no such thing as “leadership by being a jerk.”  I value those who inspire and lead from the front by example, not those who push from behind.

What are you passionate about?  

I’m passionate about ensuring the safety and welfare of children.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights that belong to the young, to include necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, education, safe and stable home environments, and personal safety.

Let’s bring it local.  What is your favorite thing about the CSRA?

First and foremost, I have to thank the CSRA for producing my beautiful wife.  As a person, she embodies much of what I love about the CSRA:  a positive disposition, cheerfulness, and ambition.  I’m excited to be settling into a military friendly community that is on the rise, working hard to improve business opportunities, education, employment, and essential services.

Here is one of the most important questions and what everyone really wants to know: what is your favorite sports team? 

I am all about the University of Notre Dame – GO IRISH!

Back to law for a minute.  What was your most interesting case? 

In 2001, when internet protection was misunderstood and there were few computer experts available to testify, I defended an individual who was charged with accessing child pornography on a library computer that had been infected with malware that was causing innocent searches to redirect to certain adult websites.  The case involved finding and qualifying an “expert” to explain search history to a low-tech audience and then arguing that the viewing of thumbnail photographs did not violate federal law in that case.

Traveling new legal terrain must be fascinating. Let’s end with some interesting facts about you.

I’ve traveled to twenty six countries, lived in three, appeared as an extra on television shows in two, and served as a diplomatic liaison in one.

Before graduating high school, I once rode on a bus through Chicago while sitting next to George Lucas – he assured me that “Return of the Jedi” would not be the last Star Wars movie.

Meet-Jim-Ouellette

Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Dismissal from Train Derailment

Hull Barrett obtains multi-million dollar lawsuit lawsuit dismissal from train derailment.

Hull Barrett attorneys George Hall and Shannon Lanier successfully defended a Class I Railroad in a multi-million dollar property damages lawsuit. George Hall and Shannon Lanier were able to convince the trial court to grant summary judgment on the liability damages claims asserted by a commercial landowner after a derailment in Burke County, Georgia in 2010. The landowner alleged that he planned to develop the 900 acre tract of land as a mitigation and stream credit bank and projected 15 million dollars in potential revenue.

Hall and Lanier convinced the trial court to grant summary judgment based on federal preemption defenses and the speculative nature of the Plaintiff’s claim for lost profits. An appeal is expected.

To guarantee you see Hull Barrett’s legal alerts and advice, subscribe to our bi-monthly email newsletter HERE.

What Beats Employment Attorney Jim Ellington?

Do you know your attorney outside of the legal realm?  What do you get when you push away the motions and legal research?  Attorney Jim Ellington is keeping it PG and confesses to Augusta CEO what beats him outside of the office.

To guarantee you see Hull Barrett’s legal alerts and advice, subscribe to our bi-monthly email newsletter HERE.

Meet Aimee Pickett Sanders

Aimee Sanders is Hull Barrett’s newest associate.

Aimee graduated from the University of Georgia, School of Law in 2008 and worked in Atlanta, Columbia and Augusta before joining the firm.  Hull Barrett posted her professional bio here, and the announcement may be viewed here, but thought it would be good for the community get to know her on a personal level.  Here is what Aimee had to say in a recent interview:

What fascinates you about the legal industry?

Its expansiveness. The legal field is an integral part of nearly all other industries. Whether you want to construct a plant in Augusta, Georgia or release a new doll in China, there are legal questions and/or issues that have to be addressed.

What do you believe is the most urgent legal issue in Georgia?

Access to legal services continues to be a serious issue in Georgia. There are many people who have limited access to attorneys for various reasons including location in rural areas and financial means. The State Bar of Georgia and other entities have made great strides, but we must continue to try to find ways to connect Georgians to the services they need.

What do you value in leadership?

Passion and competence.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about developing the potential in children. People are our greatest asset and the failure to invest in them early and consistently is a missed opportunity.

What is your favorite thing about the CSRA?

All of the untapped potential! The CSRA is a great place with a bright future. I look forward to being a part of that growth.

What is your favorite sport/team?

I’m not a big sports fan, but I cheer for my home teams, the Elon Phoenix and my Georgia Bulldogs!!!

What is your favorite candy?

Gummy Bears

What is something interesting about you?

I studied in Belgium and received certification in European Union Law.

Sanders-Facing-Left

 

The Best Lawyers in America® includes 12 Hull Barrett Attorneys with 1 Named as 2016 Lawyer of the Year

12 lawyers at Hull Barrett, PC were selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2016.

Best LawyersBest Lawyers compiles its lists of outstanding attorneys by conducting exhaustive peer-review surveys in which thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. “The methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.”  The process includes nomination, peer review, analysis of feedback and eligibility check. The lawyers being honored as “Best Lawyers” have received particularly high ratings in their surveys by earning a high level of respect among their peers for their abilities, professionalism and integrity.

The values of Best Lawyers in America align with the values of Hull Barrett: Experience, Quality and Community.

Not only are 12 lawyers included in the upcoming list, George Hall is named as 2016’s Lawyer of the Year for Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants.

Hall

 

The Hull Barrett attorneys selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2016:


Douglas D. Batchelor, Jr.

  • Government Relations Practice
  • Health Care Law

Mark S. Burgreen

  • Tax Law

Neal W. Dickert

  • Mediation

Davis A. Dunaway

  • Insurance Law

James B. Ellington

  • Employment Law – Management
  • Litigation – First Amendment
  • Litigation – Labor and Employment

George R. Hall

  • Legal Malpractice Law – Defendants
  • Litigation – Insurance
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants
  • Professional Malpractice Law – Defendants

R.E. (“Rand”) Hanna III

  • Public Finance Law
  • Real Estate Law

David E. Hudson

  • Bet-the-Company Litigation
  • Commercial Litigation
  • First Amendment Law
  • Litigation – Construction
  • Litigation – First Amendment
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

William J. Keogh

  • Commercial Litigation
  • Litigation – Construction

Darren G. Meadows

  • Environmental Law

Patrick J. Rice

  • Bet-the-Company Litigation
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Medical Malpractice – Defendants
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

William H. Tucker

  • Real Estate Law

“Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession.”

For more information about the inclusion process or credit for direct quotes, please check out the history of Best Lawyers.

George Hall Named Director for GDLA

Congratulations to George Hall for being named to a 3 year term as a Director of the Southern District for Georgia Defense Lawyers Association.  Part of GDLA’s mission is: “to support and work for the improvement of the adversary system of jurisprudence in our courts, to work for the elimination of court congestion and delays in civil litigation, and to promote improvements in the administration of justice and to increase the quantity and quality of the service and contribution which the legal profession renders to the community, State, and nation.”

Congratulations to all of the 2015-2016 Officers and Directors!

Officers

President: Matthew G. Moffett – Gray, Rust, St. Amand, Moffett & Brieske, Atlanta
President-Elect: Peter D. Muller – Goodman McGuffey Lindsey & Johnson, Savannah
Secretary: Hall F. McKinley, III – Drew Eckl & Farnham, Atlanta
Treasurer: Sarah B. (Sally) Akins – Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams, Savannah

Executive Committee  (includes the officers and three most recent Past Presidents)

Immediate Past President: Kirby G. Mason – Hunter Maclean, Savannah
Past President 2013-2014: Theodore (Ted) Freeman – Freeman Mathis & Gary, Atlanta
Past President 2012-2013: Lynn M. Roberson – Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers, Atlanta

Vice Presidents

Craig C. Avery – Cowsert & Avery, Athens
David N. Nelson – Chambless Higdon Richardson Katz & Griggs, Macon
Jeffrey S. Ward – Drew Eckl & Farnham, Brunswick
James D. “Dart” Meadows – Balch & Bingham, Atlanta

Directors

Northern District
Brian T. Moore (2016) – Drew Eckl & Farnham, Atlanta
Pamela Lee (2017) – Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers, Atlanta
Wayne S. Melnick (2018) – Freeman Mathis & Gary, Atlanta

Middle District
Jason C. Logan (2016) – Constangy Brooks & Smith, Macon
Jason D. Lewis (2017) – Chambless Higdon Richardson Katz & Griggs, Macon
Robert R. (Rusty) Gunn, II (2018) – Martin Snow, Macon

Southern District
James S.V. Weston (2016) – Trotter Jones, Augusta
James W. Purcell (2017) – Fulcher Hagler, Augusta
George R. Hall (2018) – Hull Barrett, Augusta

State-at-Large
William T. (Bill) Casey, Jr. – Hicks Casey & Morton, Marietta
Martin A. (Marty) Levinson – Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young, Atlanta
Ashley Rice – Waldon Adelman Castilla Hiestand & Prout, Atlanta

Partnership Raised 54,837.5 lbs of Food for Legal Food Frenzy

We-Did-ItWE DID IT!

Hull Barrett, First Citizens Bank and Ivey Residential set a goal of raising 45,000 pounds for Legal Food Frenzy.

The grand total of collected food and funds equaled 54,837.5 pounds for the joint initiative, a 75% increase over 2014 and an amount that even surprised the partnership!

The food and funds will remain local for the benefit of Golden Harvest Food Bank.  The donation provides a much needed supply of food to help the families of those kids during summer months when schools are closed.  Hull Barrett, First Citizens Bank and Ivey Residential are excited that the contribution will help increase the food stores in the distribution center.  Golden Harvest Food Bank set a regional goal of 160,000 pounds from all the legal organizations in the area; the partnership is glad to provide 1/3 of that goal.

Hull Barrett, First Citizens Bank and Ivey Residential kindly thank all of the donors that made this campaign a success.  The companies witnessed extreme generosity within the 2 week campaign.  In kind donations include Firehouse Subs for donating coupons to be used during First Citizens’ “Food Friday” event and Cabela’s for donating a gift card to be utilized as a prize for collections.

Pictured right to left: George Robertson (Associate at Hull Barrett and City Representative for Legal Food Frenzy), Rebecca Plankey (Vice President, Retail Sales Manager at First Citizens Bank), Lindsey Swartzbaugh (Director of Marketing at Hull Barrett), Caroline Ashe Teague (Sales and Marketing Director at Ivey Residential), and William J. Keogh III (Partner at Hull Barrett and Golden Harvest Food Bank Board of Directors).

3 Days Left: The Importance of Golden Harvest Food Bank

Hull Barrett partnered with First Citizens Bank and Ivey Residential to raise 45,000 pounds of food and funds during Legal Food Frenzy benefiting Golden Harvest Food Bank.  With the fundraiser ending in only 3 days (May 1st), we have received tremendous response from the community.  We are 68% to our goal!

In response to our outreach, the firm was asked why Golden Harvest Food Bank is important.  Dedication to the community is part of Hull Barrett’s mission.  The lawyers at Hull Barrett have also responded about the local non-profit battling hunger and community outreach in general:

Lanier“Food banks are among the most efficient non-profit entities in the country. According to GuideStar, the median program ratio for food banks is 94%. Golden Harvest Food Bank’s program ratio is even better – 96%.  Supporting Golden Harvest is a smart choice, and a good use of charitable dollars.” N. Shannon Gentry Lanier
Hudson-D“’Those of us who are blessed not to ever worry if we will have enough to eat, and are in a position to help those who are not so fortunate, should take great joy in giving to the Legal Food Frenzy.’  For us people of faith, whether in this way or some other, we are commanded to do for those who are in need.” David Hudson
Hall“We are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth. No child here should be hungry.” George Hall
Smith2“Golden Harvest Food Bank is a tremendous way to support those families in need throughout the year.”  Mary Runkle Smith
Lang-Cropped-Reduced“When I asked my daughter, a teacher, about how hunger affects children’s performance, she said, ‘everyone knows what it feels like to be hungry.  All you think about at the time is being hungry.  You sit and watch the clock until lunch.  If you aren’t thinking about the hunger itself, you are thinking about how embarrassing it will be if your stomach growls loud enough for anyone to know that you are hungry.  If your basic needs aren’t met, how in the world would you be able to learn anything?’” Susan R. Lang, Director of Administration
Driver3“It’s important for everyone to remember that we are part of a larger community of people and families that can use our help.” Chris Driver
Robertson“The Georgia Legal Food Frenzy is a tremendous opportunity for the Augusta legal community to show its appreciation and support of the CSRA.  Through this program, each legal entity that provides aid to those who are hungry can take pride in being a catalyst to the ultimate goal of ending hunger in the CSRA.  This  event furnishes a forum  where friendly competition is encouraged and, unlike court room litigation, everyone who participates is a winner.” George Robertson
Keogh“I have been proud to serve on the Board of Directors of the Golden Harvest Food Bank for several years now.  Golden Harvest, and its partner organizations, have been instrumental in addressing the needs of those in our community who are struggling.  Golden Harvest distributed over 17 million pounds of food in the CSRA last fiscal year, and is poised to distribute even more this year.  Giving back to those in need is an important responsibility we all have, and dedicated organizations such as Golden Harvest really make a difference.” Bill Keogh

 

Partnership’s Goal to Raise 45,000 lbs of Food during Legal Food Frenzy

This is Hull Barrett’s 4th year and First Citizens’ 2nd year participating in Legal Food Frenzy.  New to the partnership is Ivey Residential!  Firehouse Subs also offered an in-kind donation (more info below).

A company that is doing business in the community should also SERVE the community.  Hull Barrett realizes a mere monetary donation from the firm is not enough to make a real dent in the hunger stats that face the CSRA and surrounding areas.

Hull Barrett, First Citizens Bank and Ivey Residential are looking to spend more time and effort to bring awareness to the food insecurity and hunger statistics, and more, to do something about it.

3 companies, working together, have a real shot at making a difference.  We have set an ambitious goal of 45,000 lbs of food and funds, a goal that cannot be met without the help of the public’s generosity.

So, what is Legal Food Frenzy?

The Office of the Attorney General, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia, and the Georgia Food Bank Association have joined forces to create a friendly food and fund drive to benefit food banks in Georgia from April 20 – May 1, 2015.

Nearly 60% of Georgia’s public school children are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

1 in 5 Georgians – are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where they will find their next meal.

1 in 4 children in Georgia are food insecure.

The Legal Food Frenzy provides a much needed supply of food and funds to regional food banks to help the families of those kids during summer months when schools are closed.  The Legal Food Frenzy is timed to help meet that demand.

Golden Harvest hopes to raise $40,000 during Legal Food Frenzy.  Our partnership with First Citizens Bank and Ivey Residential would like to raise 20% of that goal.  That’s high!  But possible with the help of the community!  Interested in helping, click HERE.

How are we going to do it?

First Citizens Bank will have barrels in each branch location to collect food and funds during the 2 week drive.  In addition, they are hosting “Food Friday” on April 24th!  Every customer that brings in food or funds to a First Citizens location will receive a coupon for a free drink and chips at Firehouse Subs.  Firehouse Subs was generous for its contribution toward our goal.

Ivey Residential will gather donations and food on Sunday, April 26th from 10 am – 2 pm in the Crawford Creek and Canterbury Farms communities. Residents that want to help fight hunger but won’t be home may leave clearly marked donation bags on his/her front porch. Ivey Residential has also set up collection bins in its office and in the model homes of Crawford Creek and Canterbury Farms.

Hull Barrett will also have barrels in its offices in Augusta, Aiken and Evans.  Hull Barrett is going to take a grass roots approach with each attorney in the office reaching out and connecting in his or her own personal way.  We are also going to have a drawing the last day of the food drive, May 1st.  Anyone that donates online will be entered to win a $50 gift card to Whole Foods! Hull Barrett will also be giving away additional prizes at random, including during the first week of the fundraiser. So don’t wait to donate online!

Golden Harvest serves all of the CSRA. Let’s work together to make our community less hungry.

DONATION BUTTON

 

Questions about Social Media in the Workplace?

Social media has long since passed a fad and is now central to daily existence with 74% of adults utilizing a social media platform.*  That leaves some bubbling questions for employers and employees about social media and the workplace.

What can an employer do if it disagrees or dislikes a post an employee made on social?

What can an employee say online?

Do privacy settings make a difference?

What about right to privacy?

What does the law have to say?

These topics will be covered by employment lawyer Tom Cathey in the next Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Business lunch on March 17 at 11:30 at Legends Club.  Click here to register:   http://bit.ly/1C7AgHR

For more information about Tom Cathey, click HERE.

 

 

Georgia Supreme Court Decision on Hospital Lien Laws

HullBarrett_LifeStyle-18617

Many Georgia plaintiff and health care lawyers were paying attention the Georgia Supreme Court decision on Monday.  The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court decision and validated hospital lien laws.  “Kight is important to all Georgia hospitals for preserving their right to make use of the Georgia Hospital Lien Act without exposure to individual or class action claims of the type asserted by the plaintiff,” said David Hudson, Managing Partner of Hull Barrett and attorney who argued the case for MCG Health, Inc.

The Daily Report covers the story in full:

Hospital Wins Right to Place Liens on Patients’ Injury Suits

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday scuttled a lawsuit against an Augusta hospital over its collection practices, rejecting a patient’s attempt to test the limits of the state’s lien laws.

Although the unanimous decision was a victory for the hospital run by MCG Health Inc., plaintiffs lawyers who were watching the case could take some comfort in the high court distancing itself from remarks in a Court of Appeals decision that appeared to give hospitals even greater leeway to place liens on their patients’ personal injury suits

Personal injury lawyers had been watching the case closely because they fear if liens are large enough, they could prevent patients from collecting on their personal injury settlements, depriving them of the full benefit of health insurance.

Some patients with cases against parties who allegedly caused their injuries claimed the hospital filed liens even when the patients’ health insurers had paid their bills.

The winning lawyer for the hospital, David Hudson of Hull Barrett in Augusta, noted that Monday’s decision rejected the plaintiff’s contention that a hospital must know at the time it files a lien the exact amount that it ultimately could collect via that route. He has said a lien can protect a hospital if a patient’s health insurer won’t pay and tells the hospital to seek recourse from the party that caused the injury, or if health coverage has lapsed.

The bottom line, said Hudson on Monday, is that “what a hospital can and cannot recover under a hospital lien will be governed by the language of the contract … with the patient’s insurer.”

A lawyer for the plaintiff, Harry Revell of Nicholson Revell in Augusta, said it was “somewhat comforting” that the Supreme Court hadn’t adopted in full the Court of Appeals opinion in the case—which he said allowed hospitals to “balance bill” through liens to collect the difference between what a plaintiff’s health insurer has agreed by contract to pay and what the hospital considers the value of the services provided, regardless of what the hospital’s contract with the insurance company says. But he said it was disappointing that Monday’s opinion didn’t acknowledge that it took a lawsuit and several months of litigation for MCG to reduce by about $35,000 what it was seeking from the plaintiff via a lien.

In the case decided by the state Supreme Court on Monday, plaintiff Christopher Kight was injured in an automobile accident in which he was a passenger in a car driven by an allegedly intoxicated driver. He received medical care for his injuries from MCG.

In March 2007, the hospital filed a lien for $36,177.68 in hospital charges against any causes of action Kight might have based on his injuries. That amount didn’t take into account that Kight was entitled to lower prices due to the discounted rate in the contract between the hospital and Kight’s health insurance carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

That December, after Kight received an offer from the driver to settle his claim, Kight demanded that the hospital cancel its lien, saying there were no unpaid charges in light of Kight’s insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. When the hospital failed to cancel the lien, Kight sued the hospital.

In September 2008, while the suit was pending, the hospital filed an amended lien for only $863.10 that the hospital said superseded the previous lien. The hospital said Kight owed deductibles and co-pays in that amount.

Augusta Circuit Superior Court Judge Sheryl Jolly granted partial summary judgment to Kight and declared the March 2007 lien void and invalid. She later awarded Kight $40,950 in attorney fees and $3,376.60 in expenses, subject to a set-off of $863.10, representing what Kight owed the hospital.

The hospital appealed, and the case went to all 12 judges of the Georgia Court of Appeals because one of the court’s precedents was under consideration. In a unanimous decision written by Judge Gary Andrews, the court reversed. Andrews wrote that because Kight’s claim against the driver was not limited to the discounted charges the insurer paid to the hospital and, under the state lien statute, the hospital steps into Kight’s shoes for purposes of receiving payment from the driver or the driver’s insurer, the hospital could file a lien for the unpaid portion of the charges it had billed.

In a special concurrence representing half of the court, Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes said that a 2005 Court of Appeals opinion that Andrews said had been implicitly overruled in part by the Georgia Supreme Court remained good law for this proposition: a hospital can contractually waive its right to collect on a hospital lien through a “no recourse” provision in the hospital’s contract with a patient’s health insurer.

The state Supreme Court initially denied the plaintiff’s request that it hear the case but changed course after the plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration. The court later received amicus briefs in support of the plaintiff from the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and Blue Cross.

On Monday, the court affirmed the appeals court’s ruling that the lien was valid and the award of attorney fees to the plaintiff was improper. In a relatively brief five-page opinion, Justice Harold Melton emphasized the court’s ruling was limited to the facts of Kight’s case and said unspecified portions of Andrews’ opinion were “dicta” and not relevant to the case at hand.

The Supreme Court’s decision appeared to turn on the Court of Appeals’ finding that the hospital was owed some money when it filed its initial $36,177.68 lien—albeit only $261.10 in unpaid discounted payments due from Blue Cross and $186.48 in unpaid deductibles or co-pays due from Kight. (The $863.10 amount sought by the subsequent lien reflected additional care Kight received following the filing of the first lien.)

“Contrary to the ruling of the trial court and Kight’s arguments to this court,” wrote Melton, “the hospital was owed money on the date that the lien was filed. As a result, Kight’s principal argument that there was no debt on which to base any lien must fail.”

Melton added that the hospital hadn’t waived its right to impose a lien in Kight’s case, saying that, unlike in cases in which a hospital has agreed it had no recourse whatsoever except against a patient’s insurer, the hospital in its contract with Blue Cross had explicitly reserved its right to collect deductibles and co-pays directly from Kight.

Melton also rejected Kight’s argument that the hospital’s lien was void because it did not reflect the correct amount owed on the day it was filed, saying there was nothing in the state lien statute that required that.

Not long after the Court of Appeals had ruled in Kight’s case, a panel of that court reversed class certification in a similar lawsuit against MCG, noting the hospital treats insured patients under at least 35 different contracts with 35 different insurance carriers. Lawyers for both sides said Monday’s decision spelled the end to the claims of the named plaintiffs in that case, Revell explaining that in that case the hospital had canceled its liens altogether.

The case is Kight v. MCG Health, No. S14G0603.

Read more: http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202719376656/Hospital-Wins-Right-to-Place-Liens-on-Patients-Injury-Suits#ixzz3TKQnfQS0

Hiring an Accounting Coordinator

Hull Barrett is Hiring!

We are currently accepting applications for an Accounting Coordinator – Accounts Payable.

Applicant will report to the Director of Administration, work in the downtown office and perform a range of general clerical, accounting and bookkeeping support functions including but not limited to:

  • Perform all necessary account, bank and other reconciliations as assigned
  • Monitor customer accounts for non-payment and delayed payment
  • Perform all necessary accounts payable duties including but not limited to:
    • Check, verify and process vendor invoices
    • Prepare payments for signature
    • Sort, code and enter accounts payable data
    • Analyze discrepancies and unpaid invoices
    • Maintain vendor files
    • 1099 maintenance
  • Update, verify and maintain accounting journals and ledgers and other financial records
  • Assist in month end reporting procedures
  • Find and use accounting data to resolve accounting problems and discrepancies
  • Perform filing and general administrative tasks
  • Coordinate purchase of office supplies from established vendors
  • Oversee maintenance of closed files and off-site record storage
  • Assist with accounts receivable and other projects as assigned
  • Liaise with other departments/customers/vendors

Education and Experience

  • 1 – 3 years of experience in clerical accounting
  • Associate degree in business or accounting or similar degree an advantage
  • Accurate data entry and 10 key skills
  • MS Office (Especially Excel) and knowledge of accounting software
  • Knowledge of generally accepted accounting and bookkeeping principles and procedures

Key Competencies

  • Planning and organizing
  • Detail oriented, professional attitude, reliable
  • Must have strong work ethic
  • Must be well organized and a self-starter
  • Problem-solving
  • Team player
  • Communication skills

To apply, please send resumes with cover letter and references to employment@hullbarrett.com.