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

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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.

Hull Barrett included in 2015 “Best Law Firms”

Hull Barrett, PC is included in the 2015 “Best Law Firms” with a Tier 1 Ranking.

The “Best Law Firms” were announced publicly by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers. Inclusion signifies “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.” Only 7 Practice Areas are ranked in the Augusta area with only 11 firms making the list. Hull Barrett, PC is ranked in the following Practice Areas:

  • Commercial Litigation
  • Health Care Law
  • Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

In addition to the Tier 1 Rankings, Hull Barrett received a Tier 2 Ranking in Mediation.

“To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the US.” Twelve attorneys from Hull Barrett, PC were selected by their peers for inclusion in 2015 Best Lawyers in America® as released earlier in this year.

The full national publication may be viewed online at: http://bestlawfirms.usnews.com.

Neal Dickert Co-Authors Chapter in Trying Your First Case: A Practitioner’s Guide

Hull Barrett is pleased to announce that attorney and partner Neal Dickert co-authored a chapter in Trying Your First Case: A Practitioner’s Guide.

clip_image001Available August 1, 2014, “Trying Your First Case gives lawyers both young and experienced, a ‘playbook’ to use in preparing a case for trial.”  Co-authored by Neal, Chapter 8 focuses on “issues relating to the choice of the witnesses to use, meeting and preparing the witness, preparation and use of a trial notebook, organization of the direct examination of the witnesses, use of documentary evidence, and handling the difficult witness.”

Neal Dickert began practicing law in 1974.  From 1997-2007, he served as a Superior Court Judge for the Augusta circuit and returned to practice with Hull Barrett in 2008.  Practicing in the areas of general, civil and commercial litigation; mediation and arbitration; and appeals practice, Neal is a frequent lecturer on trial practices, ethics, evidentiary issues and testimony.  He also wrote the Georgia Handbook on Foundations and Objections.  Neal has successfully mediated over 300 cases including personal injury, product liability, premises liability, contractual disputes, business dissolution, medical malpractice, employment litigation and divorce.  Neal is the only Georgia-based lawyer to contribute to the “how-to” guide to presenting a case at trial.

For more information about the book, check out the American Bar Association website.

2014 American Red Cross Augusta Chapter Heroes Campaign and Breakfast

The American Red Cross held its annual Heroes Breakfast on June 4, 2014 at First Baptist Church of Augusta.

The breakfast serves as a capstone of a month long fundraising effort.  Hero volunteers raised over $45,000 for the organization.  The funds are allocated to stay local and “aid during times of disaster, seeing to the welfare of military families and providing citizens with lifesaving CPR and first aid skills.”

During the breakfast, The American Red Cross recognizes local individuals that have gone above and beyond to impact the life of another.  These individuals do not consider themselves to be a hero by definition, but simply acted according to conscience and intuition.  This event “celebrate[s] the spirit of humanitarianism by honoring those individuals in the CSRA who have shown courage, kindness and unselfish character by their acts of heroism in our community.”  The CSRA is better and stronger because of these heroes.

Brooks Hudson, Associate at Hull Barrett, PC, is a board member of the American Red Cross Augusta Chapter and helped organize the event.  The firm is a proud sponsor of this great cause.

 

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Pictured: Milton Martin, Of Counsel, (left) and Brian Coursey, Associate, (right), lawyers at Hull Barrett, PC.

JAMES Magazine Releases 2014 Most Influential Attorneys

JAMES Magazine, a leading Georgia publication focusing on government, politics and business, has selected lawyer David Hudson and lawyer Patrick Rice, both of Hull Barrett, PC, as one of the magazine’s 2014 Most Influential Attorneys.  Only 4 attorneys in private practice in the CSRA received this honor. This recognition was announced in the May/June 2014 edition of the publication.

“Along with the dictionary definition of ‘influential,’ JAMES Magazine’s spotlight on ‘influential Georgia attorneys’ takes into consideration not just expertise in court … but activity influencing the court of public opinion. This listing takes into account a lawyer who may or may not serve powerful clients but who shapes public or private policies- sometimes behind the scenes – in the interconnected and fascinating world of the law, business, and politics.  So this is not your usual ‘super lawyer’ list of the many fine Peach State attorneys who are tops in their areas of litigation.”

Phil Kent compiled the article featured in JAMES Magazine.  He is also “co-publisher of Insider Advantage and a panelist on Atlanta Fox5 WAGA-TV’s ‘The Georgia Gang.’”

Congratulations to David Hudson, Patrick Rice and all the influencers of the State of Georgia.

2014 Legal Food Frenzy Results

Yesterday, the Attorney General announced the results of Legal Food Frenzy:

In total, 270 firms participated and raised 1,140,672 lbs. of food!

Hull Barrett, PC raised over 32,000 lbs. of food! All of the food and funds raised will remain local and benefit Golden Harvest Food Bank.  Hull Barrett raised the most amount of poundage for this competition for the Golden Harvest Food Bank region.

Thank you to the attorneys, staff members, business associates, and clients that made this fundraiser a success. And a special thanks to First Citizens Bank for allowing Hull Barrett to place barrels in 8 locations for convenient collections. 32,000 lbs. will certainly help the 1 in 5 individuals that struggle with food insecurity.

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Hull Barrett Receives Favorable Jury Verdict

An Augusta shopping center owner and management company were sued in a trip and fall liability case seeking in excess of $250,000.  The case was tried in the US District Court in Augusta.

The plaintiff suffered serious injuries to his right elbow.  He subsequently had surgery and received a permanent impairment rating of 8%.  His medical bills totaled over $52,000.

The retailer in the shopping center was also sued by the plaintiff.  The retailer settled before trial.

This week, attorney George Hall of Hull Barrett, PC and co-counsel went to trial on behalf of the shopping center owner and management company.  After 2 days of trial, the jury awarded $15,725 to the plaintiff, far from the $250,000 sought.

Click Here to read more about Mr. Hall.

Hull Barrett and First Citizens Bank Partner to Collect Food and Funds

Legal Food Frenzy, a state wide food and fund drive organized by The Office of the Attorney General, the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Food Bank Association, kicked off Monday and will run through May 2nd.

Hull Barrett has participated in Legal Food Frenzy the last 2 years and will be increasing its efforts for the 3rd annual event. Hunger in Georgia and South Carolina is a very real and large issue.Statistics released by Golden Harvest Food Bank indicate that “1 in 5 Georgians are food insecure (struggling with hunger), well above the national average of 16.4%.”

With this in mind, Hull Barrett has set a large goal of collecting 39,000 lbs. of food and funds for contribution in the fight against hunger. In order to help attain our goal, the firm has partnered with First Citizens Bank.

Food may be dropped off at any Hull Barrett or First Citizens location.  Financial contributions may be made online at: http://bit.ly/QzFDJe.

Thank you for your support of the food banks serving the Central Savannah River Area. Hull Barrett and First Citizens Bank proudly support Golden Harvest Food Bank and its mission to end hunger.

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Court of Appeals Reverses Class Certification Against MCG Health, Inc.

A case that went to the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a class certification previously granted by Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet of Richmond County Superior Court.  Attorney David Hudson of Hull Barrett, PC represented MCG Health, Inc.  Plaintiffs in this case asked for class certification against the hospital taking issue with the practice of filing liens on patients’ suits against alleged persons causing injuries.  David Hudson defended the practice of lien filing because MCG must “protect itself in case, for example, a patient’s health insurer won’t pay, telling the hospital to seek recourse from the party that caused the injury” or “if the patient’s health coverage has lapsed.”

Mr. Hudson further argued “that each plaintiff presents a different situation, making class treatment of the matter inappropriate.”

Judge Sara Doyle, on the panel of the Court of Appeals, noted, “an examination of the plaintiffs’ claims reveals a variety of factual and legal issues resulting in numerous individualized inquiries and answers.”

On March 20th, the Court of Appeals reversed the class certification.  Hudson said, “the whole lesson from this case is each patient’s claim is different.”

Read more about this decision HERE.

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Picture Credit: John Disney/Daily Report

Chris Driver Appointed as Columbia County Attorney

The lawyers of Hull Barrett are pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Driver as Columbia County Attorney.

Chris Driver has been working with Columbia County as an Assistant County Attorney for over nine years.  He will now act as primary counsel for the County in all legal matters.

“It has been a professional privilege and an honor for the firm, through County Attorney Doug Batchelor, to represent Columbia County through the recent years of exceptional progress and growth. We have the same gratification that the County has chosen our partner, Chris Driver, to be the new County Attorney and for our firm to continue this important representation,” says David Hudson, Managing Partner, Hull Barrett, PC.
Chris Driver works out of the firm’s Evans, Georgia office and is admitted to practice in Georgia and South Carolina.  Professionally, Mr. Driver is a member of the American Bar Association, Augusta Bar Association, Institute of City and County Attorneys, State Bar of Georgia Property Law Section, and Young Lawyers of Augusta. In addition, Mr. Driver has a strong relationship with the CSRA and shows his commitment through working with several local organizations:  Columbia County Chamber of Commerce (Ambassador Committee), Kiwanis Club of Augusta (Board Member), Leadership Columbia County (Class of 2012), and Boy Scouts Council (Past Board Member).

Click HERE to learn more about Mr. Driver.

Georgia Super Lawyers and Rising Stars Recognizes 7 Attorneys from Hull Barrett

Hull Barrett is pleased to announce that 4 of the firm’s attorneys are included in the 2014 Georgia Super Lawyers® list.  No more than 5 percent of Georgia attorneys are chosen annually for this list.  These attorneys “attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.”  The 2014 Super Lawyers list includes:

George Hall – Civil Litigation: Defense

David E. Hudson – Business Litigation

James V. Painter – Personal Injury Medical Malpractice: Defense

Patrick J. Rice – General Litigation

 

In addition, 3 of the firm’s attorneys are included in the 2014 Georgia Super Lawyers Rising Stars list.  No more than 2.5 percent of Georgia attorneys are chosen annually for this list.  These attorneys are 40 years old or younger and have been practicing law for 10 years or less.  The 2014 Rising Stars list includes:

Thomas L. Cathey – Civil Litigation: Defense

Christopher A. Cosper – General Litigation

Davis Dunaway – Construction Litigation

The selection for these respected lists are made by “a patented multi-phase process that includes a diverse list of the top attorneys nominated by their own peers, validated with third-party research across 12 key categories, and reviewed by a highly credentialed panel of attorneys.”  Please join us in congratulating all the attorneys recognized on the 2014 Georgia Supers Lawyers and Georgia Rising Stars lists.

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