George Hall named Georgia Defense Lawyers President-Elect

George Hall, a defense attorney for Hull Barrett Attorneys, has been named president-elect 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. Last year, he served as the treasurer. Before that, 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.

 

Hull Barrett PC Welcomes Joan E. Smith

Hull Barrett PC is happy to welcome attorney Joan E. Smith.

Smith focuses her law practice on domestic litigation in the Aiken and Augusta areas. She actively practices in the Family Courts of Edgefield, Aiken and Barnwell counties in South Carolina, and the Superior Court and Juvenile Courts of Richmond and Columbia counties in Georgia. She often litigates cases in McCormick County, S.C., and in Burke and McDuffie counties in Georgia.

Her domestic litigation practice includes actions for divorce and post-divorce issues of custody, child support, alimony and equitable division; the legitimation of children born out of wedlock, termination of parental rights and adoption; appellate work in both states concerning all of these issues, and frequent UCCJEA jurisdictional disputes between a parent in Georgia or South Carolina and a parent in another state.

Before joining the firm, Smith was a partner at Mirshak and Smith LLC, Law Firm for 20 years, litigating domestic cases in Georgia and South Carolina.

A native of Oklahoma City, Smith earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Tulsa College of Law. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, a Bachelor of Arts in French and a minor in Political Science from Oklahoma State University.

Smith is a member of the Aiken County Bar, the Augusta Family Law Bar, the Augusta Bar Foundation Inc., and the Augusta Bar Association, where she previously served on the Executive Committee. She served as the judicial advisor for the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority at Augusta University.

Returning to the Workplace

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, employers are understandably concerned about the risk of infection in the workplace.  In the midst of an evolving medical crisis, it can be difficult to balance that concern with the requirements of the law.

 

Employers may legally ask their employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus, including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers may require their employee to submit to temperature checks as well, but it is worth remembering that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.  In any case, all information about employee illness or symptoms must be kept confidential.  Medical information related to COVID-19 should be kept in existing medical files, not personnel files.  Testing and medical inquiries should be conducted on a non-discriminatory basis.  All similarly-situated employees should be treated equally.

 

At work, employer should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and from local authorities.  Require your employees to observe social distancing, and to practice frequent handwashing.  The CDC recommends the use of cloth face masks in public settings, particularly in areas of significant community-based transmission.

 

Employees who become ill with symptoms of COVID-19 should be required to leave the workplace immediately.  In doing so, take care to respect the privacy and dignity of the employee.  Under recent federal law, employees who are absent from work due to COVID-19 are entitled to two weeks of paid sick leave.  Your company’s policies may provide additional paid leave as well.  You should inform your other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19, while taking care to maintain confidentiality.  It may be necessary to require exposed co-workers to stay home from work and self-quarantine for up to 14 days.  Follow guidelines from the CDC to clean and disinfect the workplace.

 

When a sick employee is ready to return to work, it is permissible to require some medical certification of their health before allowing them to return.

How Hull Barrett Can Assist During This Time

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to new legislation that affects employees and employers, and Hull Barrett PC is here to help you navigate all the new laws. Employers have come to us with many questions, and we advise the best course of action according to the law for your particular needs.

 

Every scenario is different. We’ve had many employers ask what they should do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or how to manage employees who refuse to work because they are concerned about exposure. The law can give many options for those scenarios, and it easily can get confusing. We help you interpret the law and find the right answers for your needs.

 

Lately, we’ve helped local businesses in several ways. Here are just a few examples:

 

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide paid leave to their employees under certain circumstances related to the virus. We’ve spent a lot of time advising our clients how to comply with that law.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been amended to provide job protection to employees who are out of work for various reasons related to the virus. Hull Barrett has been helping our clients comply with the new law.
  • We are helping businesses determine whether they qualify for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
  • We advise businesses that do qualify for PPP understand how those funds can be used and the effect of layoffs and terminations on PPP loans.

 

As a business owner or manager, we know you have questions about keeping your business compliant with COVID-19 legislation. Hull Barrett PC is a full-service firm with a long successful history in Georgia and South Carolina. With 24 lawyers and support staff, we look forward to providing top-quality legal representation and unparalleled service to you and the community. Contact us today for more information.

Guidance for Reviving a Healthy Georgia in Response to COVID-19

Although the “Shelter in Place” order for those who are 65 years of age or older, living in a nursing home, severely obese, or have compromised immune system, has been extended until June 12, 2020, many businesses are now permitted to open their doors to patrons, provided that such businesses implement measures to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 among its patrons and workforce.

 

Among other things, and subject to mandated mitigation measures, restaurants and dining rooms are permitted to resume providing dine-in services; businesses that are not Critical Infrastructure are permitted to continue in-person operations; gyms and fitness centers are permitted to allow customers; body art studios, massage therapists, and tanning facilities are permitted to provide services by appointment; and bowling alleys, indoor movie theaters and cinemas are permitted open.

 

Before any business opens its doors to customers or patrons, it is critical that the business and its work force has a full understanding of the measures it must take to mitigate exposure and spread of the virus.

 

            Under Georgia law, businesses may find themselves liable to members of the public if those businesses fail to exercise ordinary care in keeping their premises safe.  The coronavirus pandemic raises questions as to what actions are required by businesses to protect their customers, and what degree of exposure businesses face in the event a customer claims to have contracted the virus upon the business premises.  In this constantly evolving health crisis, it can be expected that lawsuits will be initiated against businesses for failing to implement procedural safeguards to protect customers from contracting the virus.

 

Businesses should take reasonably practical precautions to limit their customers’ exposure to the virus.  These precautions include mitigation strategies published by the CDC and Governor Kemp.  Specific industries, including restaurants and barber shops, are subject to additional safety requirements.  As Georgia businesses reopen their doors to customers, businesses should be proactive in educating their employees and customers about proper hygiene and how to reduce spread.  Most importantly, these businesses should pay close attention to future orders.

 

Businesses must also be careful as their employees return to the workplace from furloughs or quarantines.  On the one hand, employees who show signs of illness, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should not be permitted to return to work.  On the other hand, issues of privacy and the requirements of federal law limit an employer’s right to ask an employee about his or her health.

 

As we continue to monitor the pandemic, Hull Barrett, PC attorneys are working to stay current on developments and counsel clients through various legal and business issues that may arise.

 

If you have any questions about how your business can mitigate liability during this reopening phase, please contact Tom Cathey (tcathey@hullbarrett.com), Ben Dinges (bdinges@hullbarrett.com), or any other litigation attorney at Hull Barrett, PC (706-722-4481).

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

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