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.

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.

ROBERT L. BUCHANAN, JR. HAS JOINED HULL BARRETT, PC

 

Hull Barrett, PC is pleased to announce that Robert L. Buchanan, Jr. has joined the firm and has moved his law practice to the firm’s Aiken office.  He will continue to practice in the areas of civil litigation, including personal injury litigation, business litigation, probate and estate litigation, real estate litigation, as well as corporate governance and transactions.

 

A native of Aiken, Mr. Buchanan is a 1973 graduate of Erskine College and a 1976 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law.   Following graduation and his being admitted to the South Carolina Bar, Mr. Buchanan returned to Aiken and joined the former firm of Williams & Johnson.  He later formed Buchanan Law Office, PA where he has continued to practice until joining the Hull Barrett firm.  He has served as a part-time federal Magistrate Judge for the District Courts of South Carolina since 1979.    He is named in the Best Lawyers in America and holds the AV Preeminent Judicial rating by Martindale Hubbell.

 

Mr. Buchanan is an active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Aiken where he has served as a Ruling Elder, Deacon, Trustee, and Church School teacher.  He is a former youth sports coach in the community.  He and his wife, Tookie, are the parents of three adult children, all of whom are living in Aiken.  They have four grandchildren.

 

Hull Barrett, PC, founded in 1872 in Aiken and 1916 in Augusta, provides a full range of legal services to its clients through its offices in Aiken, Augusta, and Evans.

Dated: August 29, 2018

Mitch Snyder selected to Leadership Augusta – Class of 2019

Mitch Snyder has been selected to Leadership Augusta, Class of 2019.

Leadership Augusta is a program of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. The mission of Leadership Augusta is to inform and inspire existing and emerging leaders of the greater Augusta area to build a stronger community. It’s vision is to  recognize the power that trusted relationships between community leaders bring to the region. They believe in cultivating leaders who will build upon those relationships, collaborate across cultural and economic boundaries, and develop innovative ways for the greater metro Augusta area to thrive, socially and economically.  Congratulations Mitch – we sure know you are a great asset to this team.

Read more about them here: https://www.leadershipaugustaga.com/

George Hall elected as Secretary of the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association

Congratulations! George Hall has been elected as the 2018 Secretary of the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association.

The Georgia Defense Lawyers Association (GDLA) was founded 51 years ago by a group of civil defense attorneys to create a forum for networking outside of the office, courtroom and arbitration table. Initially the GDLA’s focus was social camaraderie and the informal sharing of techniques on the vision of its founders and evolved to offer formal avenues for training, networking and communication. Wishing George all the best in his role with the GDLA.

Supreme Court holds that Government agencies have the discretion to produce most open records exempted documents

In the case of Campaign for Accountability v. Board of Regents, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on June 18, 2018.  This was a case in which the sponsor of a professor’s academic research at Kennesaw University sued to prohibit disclosure of documents between the University researcher and the sponsor of the research that had to do with the effects of payday loans on the financial health of consumers.  The requester of the background records obviously wanted to see if the professor’s research was swayed because it was financed by the payday loan industry.

The Georgia Court of Appeals sided with the Consumer Credit Research Foundation that sponsored the professor’s research.  The Court of Appeals held that an agency could not release documents covered by an Open Records Act exemption.

However, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals’ interpretation was wrong.  The language that precedes the 50 enumerated exceptions under O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a) states as follows:  “Public disclosure shall not be required for records that are [listed below].”  The Supreme Court rightly held that a common sense understanding is that not “requiring” records to be released is entirely different from “prohibiting” records from being released.

The Court correctly noted that some Open Records Act exemptions specifically state that the documents in question cannot be disclosed.  But for the great majority of the exemptions, an agency is free to permit disclosure of the requested records should it choose to do so.

David Hudson

GPA Counsel