Hull Barrett Successfully Defends Retailer and Employee

A national retailer and one of its employees recently was sued for malicious prosecution, false arrest and false imprisonment. The case was tried in the State Court of Richmond County in Augusta, Ga. The plaintiffs claimed they had been falsely arrested and imprisoned on shoplifting charges and were seeking more than $300,000 in damages.

George Hall, of Hull Barrett PC, and co-counsel went to trial on behalf of the defendants during the week of Jan. 21, 2020. After three days of trial, the jury returned a complete verdict for both defendants.

Hall has an active trial practice with a concentration in personal injury defense and commercial matters. He has tried more than 120 cases in his career and has served as a mediator and arbitrator in more than 300 cases since 1997.

His practice areas include:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation & Arbitration
  • Business Disputes, Commercial & Securities Litigation
  • Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace
  • Lease and Real Estate Disputes
  • Products Liability, Personal Injury and Torts
  • Professional Liability Law

To read more about Mr. Hall, go HERE.

 

Hull Barrett Successfully Defends Car Dealership & Bank

A local car dealership and a national bank were sued for revocation of acceptance, breach of warranty, violation of Georgia Fair Business Practice Act and punitive damages.  The case was recently tried in the Superior Court of Columbia County, Georgia.

The Plaintiffs had purchased an expensive vehicle from the local dealership which was financed by the bank.  The Plaintiffs alleged that the vehicle had been wrecked prior to being sold to them and was defective.  The Plaintiffs sought damages in excess of $100,000.00.  George Hall and Jordan Bell tried the case on behalf of the Defendants during the week of February 17, 2020.  At the conclusion of the Plaintiffs’ case, the presiding judge granted a Motion for Directed Verdict on all claims for both Defendants.

Severance Agreements

A severance agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee who is being terminated from his or her job. Some employers use severance agreements to reward employees who are leaving after a period of long and distinguished service. Other times, a severance agreement can protect the employer from the risk of a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled employee.

Generally speaking, the employer pays the former employee a severance – an extra payment beyond the wages the employee has earned. Severance pay is intended to help ease the former employee during the transition to a new employer. The amount of severance is negotiable, and employers should be thoughtful about how much severance pay they offer. Severance pay is taxable, and it is important that the employer and employee understand that and reach agreement about how the tax consequences of the severance pay will be handled.

In exchange for the severance payment, the former employee generally agrees to waive his or her right to sue the employer and releases any legal claims he or she may have. In other words, the employee agrees not to sue the employer for wrongful termination, breach of contract, etc. This is done by signing the severance agreement.

In addition to the waiver of claims, severance agreements often address other issues that arise when employment is terminated. They may set out an employee’s right to continued health insurance under COBRA or address what will happen regarding the employee’s retirement plan. Some severance agreements contain confidentiality provisions or noncompete agreements.

Employee Handbooks

Although neither Georgia nor South Carolina law requires it, most of my clients have an employee handbook or policy manual that they distribute to new hires. Such handbooks can be an important part of the employment relationship. They provide an opportunity for the employer to welcome the new employee and set out important policies in a coherent, organized fashion. A well-written handbook explains what the employer expects of its employees and provides a summary of the benefits that the employee can expect in return.

Good employee handbooks discuss benefits such as vacation, sick time and other forms of paid time off. They give employees notice of available benefits, including insurance and retirement benefits. They set expectations by outlining the employer’s policies on discipline and attendance. Employers who screen their employees for illegal drug use should explain their testing policies. Employers with more than 50 employees should have a policy regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act. Every handbook should set out the employer’s commitment to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment.

There are a few pitfalls common to poorly-written employee handbooks. Some handbooks are filled with typographical errors and poor formatting. Some contain policies that are vague, contradictory or, in some cases, illegal.

Some handbooks make promises that the employer does not really want to keep.  A common example is the handbook that inadvertently does away with the at-will employment relationship. Generally speaking, employment in Georgia and South Carolina is “at-will” – either the employee or the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without case. An employer who wishes to modify the at-will relationship should do so thoughtfully and use a separate contract to do so. An employee handbook should never be used in place of an employment contract.

Hull Barrett Attorneys Selected in Best Lawyers

AUGUSTA, GA – Hull Barrett PC is proud to announce that thirteen of the firm’s attorneys have been selected for inclusion in the 26th edition of Best Lawyers in America. Davis A. Dunaway was also selected as “Lawyer of The Year” for his work in insurance law. This award is made to only one attorney in a geographic region.

For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has compiled its lists of outstanding attorneys by conducting extensive peer review surveys in which leading lawyers evaluate their professional peers. If the votes for a lawyer are positive enough for recognition in Best Lawyers, that lawyer must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain in each edition. Lawyers are not permitted to pay to participate in or be recognized by Best Lawyers.

The following attorneys from Hull Barrett have been included in the 26th edition of Best Lawyers in America:

  • Neal W. Dickert (appellate practice, mediation)
  • William H. Tucker (real estate law)
  • Patrick J. Rice (bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, medical malpractice law – defendants, personal injury litigation – defendants)
  • Davis A. Dunaway (commercial litigation, insurance law)
  • James B. Ellington (employment law – management, litigation – First Amendment, litigation – labor and employment)
  • Mark S. Burgreen (tax law)
  • Robert L. Buchanan Jr. (personal injury litigation-plaintiffs)
  • David E. Hudson (personal injury litigation – defendants , bet-the-company litigation, commercial litigation, first amendment law, litigation – construction, and first amendment – litigation)
  • Darren G. Meadows (environmental law)
  • Rand Hanna III (public finance law and real estate law)
  • Christopher A. Cosper (commercial litigation)
  • George R. Hall (legal malpractice law – defendants, litigation – insurance, personal injury litigation – defendants and professional malpractice law – defendants)
  • William J. Keogh III (commercial litigation and litigation – construction)

Established in 1916 in Augusta and in 1872 in Aiken, Hull Barrett PC serves the entire Central Savannah River Region and beyond. With 27 lawyers plus support staff, the firm aims to provide quality legal representation and service to its clients and the community.

George Hall named Georgia Defense Lawyers Treasurer

George Hall, a defense attorney for Hull Barrett Attorneys, has been elected treasurer of the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association. He has been a member since 1988.
The 900-member Georgia Defense Lawyers Association is a statewide organization for lawyers who specialize in defense litigation. As the treasurer, he is in charge of finances for the organization. In the past year, he was the organization’s secretary and the editor of its journal.
Hall joined Hull Barrett in 1986 after completing law school at the University of South Carolina. He specializes in general civil defense litigation and is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
“The Georgia Defense Lawyers Association is great because it lets you meet and get exposure to lawyers from all over the state. I have made lots of referral relationships, but even more important, I have made a lot of good friends through the organization,” Hall said.
Originally from Red Springs, N.C., Hall and his wife, Margaret, live in Augusta and have two adult sons.

QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN YOU NEED A REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY

 According to Georgia law, a residential real estate closing must be conducted by a licensed real estate attorney in Augusta GA. Several Augusta lawyers at Hull Barrett Attorneys specialize in real estate, including commercial acquisitions, land development, eminent domain and residential real estate. Your Georgia real estate attorney can draft contracts properly with limited financial risk to ensure correct property rights are granted and to make sure that all parties are in compliance with the ever-changing federal and state regulations.

Hull Barrett’s real estate attorneys practice in areas of the law associated with tangible aspects of the land – agriculture, contamination, minerals, structures – and the intangible – zoning, access, interests and air space. Your Hull Barrett real estate attorney in Augusta GA represents clients in a variety of commercial and residential real estate matters, including: home purchases and sales, residential financing, land acquisition, foreclosures and much more.

When the time comes to hire a Georgia real estate attorney, you want to make sure you are hiring the best, of course. Here are five questions to ask when hiring a real estate attorney in Augusta GA.

  1. Have you handled cases similar to mine? All real estate matters certainly are not created equally. A Georgia real estate attorney who has worked similar cases will be able to anticipate potential problems and take care of them. Hull Barrett’s many estate attorneys have experience in all aspects of real estate law and will be able to effectively handle your case.
  2. How will you handle my case? Your attorney’s plan of action should be no secret. In fact, asking this question can help you determine whether your chosen attorney is the right one for your case. Ambiguous answers – “Don’t worry about it.” – can mean your attorney doesn’t know what to do or doesn’t have a plan. Clear, concise answers are the signs of a competent, experienced attorney.
  3. What is the fee schedule? Knowing how your attorney will bill you helps you avoid financial surprises. Simple matters, such as drafting a document, usually are billed by the project. Real estate matters that involve negotiations or going to court are generally billed by the hour.
  4. Will you provide references? Talking to a real estate attorney in Augusta GA will go a long way in helping you choose the right person for your situation. Take that one step further, though, and talk to people your prospective Georgia real estate attorney has helped. It’s safe to say that an attorney who refuses to give references is probably hiding something. Hull Barrett Attorneys are proud of our work and are happy to supply references.
  5. How much do you know about local laws? Not all attorneys who practice in Georgia have experience in local laws. Atlanta lawyers, for example, might be best suited to help you there, but how much do they know about Richmond County or Hephzibah? Hull Barrett’s Augusta lawyers live and practice here, so we have years of experience working with local real estate laws.

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

Hiring Legal Assistant

Hull Barrett is Hiring!

We are currently accepting applications for a General Trial Legal Assistant in Augusta.  All interested candidates should send cover letters and resumes to employment@hullbarrett.com.  Job description is described below.

Why Hull Barrett:

  • Competitive wage
  • Paid holidays
  • 95% coverage of employee health insurance
  • Retirement contribution
  • Wellness program
  • Being a member of the largest legal firm in the CSRA

General Trial Legal Assistant

We are seeking a full time, experienced, knowledgeable General Trial Legal Assistant to work in our downtown Augusta location. Duties include but are not limited to:

Case Management:

  • Organizing, tracking, and maintaining documents, calendar entries and deadlines
  • Electronic filing in various state and federal courts
  • Organization and maintenance of electronically-stored files
  • Scheduling hearings, depositions, and witness appearances

Discovery and Records Review:

  • Reviewing and summarizing case files and a variety of types of documents
  • Gathering, analyzing and organizing information, legal pleadings, discovery and other documents pertaining to litigation files
  • Preparing deposition summaries, abstracts, correspondence, responses, and working drafts of simple motions or pleadings under direction
  • Maintaining electronic legal research software and law library
  • Interviewing clients
  • Preparing records for review by experts

Trial Preparation:

  • Locating, interviewing and preparing witnesses
  • Assembling and identifying trial exhibits and trial notebooks
  • Organizing file materials for ready access at trial
  • Preparing of exhibits
  • Researching various topics and parties

Basic Qualifications:

  • Associate Degree or equivalent
  • One or more years of experience in legal office
  • PC literate with working knowledge of Windows software and a thorough knowledge of computerized legal research software
  • Experience in case management
  • Research skills
  • Discovery drafting skills

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience in propounding written discovery and preparing substantive drafts of responses to all written discovery (interrogatories, document requests, requests for admission)
  • Experience in trial preparation (trial notebooks, exhibit preparation, jury instructions)
  • Experience in obtaining and summarizing records
  • Team-first attitude, and plays well with others
  • Initiative

The right candidate must have prior work experience with electronic billing, excellent organizational skills, pays attention to detail, and be a team player.

Hospital Denies Access to Records

Are sunshine laws relevant to everyday life? Does access to records under sunshine laws matter?

Northside Hospital was asked for and denied access to records after patient bills went up after the acquisition of a couple of practice groups.  In this case, patients’ wallets are directly effected.  Further questions arose when the AJC was compiling research for a piece related to nonprofit hospitals’ CEO executive compensation.

This week, in the Georgia Court of Appeals, the hospital is arguing that its records and activities are private matters and not public.  The hospital’s stance is contingent upon the Hospital Authority of Fulton County leasing the hospital facility to a nonprofit that was created by the Authority for the purpose of operating the hospital.

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout the state of Georgia now operate under this structure: a non profit is formed with the purpose of operation and then the facilities are leased to the non profit.  David Hudson refers to this as “spinning off a private entity and transferring its assets, duties and public functions to that entity.”

David Hudson argued for transparency in an amicus brief filed in the appeal: “Without the access afforded by the Open Records Act, the public that these entities are supposed to serve is left in the dark. Are they in business to provide quality and affordable healthcare to the public, as the law requires, or are they incentivized simply to maximize revenue? Should not the public have the right to know when it is the public’s assets — and its health — at stake?”

David argues, “it cannot and should not be possible for a government agency to insulate itself from public scrutiny.”

Read the full article published by AJC HERE.

access to records

Image Credit: Bacho/shutterstock.com

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