BLG’s John Salter Named to 2011 Super Lawyers Rising Stars

Congratulations to BLG partner John F. Salter, who was recognized for the fourth time and third year in a row as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers magazine.

Salter was also recognized as a Rising Star in 2006, 2009, and 2010.

Click here to view Salter’s award information on the Super Lawyers webpage.


Roy Barnes works with new Governor to Make It Right for slain trooper’s widow

When former Georgia Governor and BLG founding partner Roy Barnes heard about the way Georgia’s insurance laws were treating the recent widow of a Georgia State Trooper who was killed in the line of duty, he decided to do something about it.

He immediately agreed to take Keisha LeCroy’s case pro bono, and then picked up the phone to call newly-elected Governor Nathan Deal. Despite facing each other in the November 2010 Governor’s race, the two quickly developed a plan to introduce a new bill before the Georgia Legislature to change the law.

Current law requires surviving family members of state workers who are killed in the line of duty to pay an increased rate to keep the state insurance policy. Keisha LeCroy would have been required to pay $900 per month for coverage of her and her son.


BLG and Gov. Deal Win Benefits for Slain Trooper’s Family

BLG founding partner and former Governor Roy E. Barnes didn’t let politics stand in the way of achieving justice for slain Georgia State Trooper Chadwick LeCroy’s widow and son.

When he heard how the state was effectively ending medical benefits for the trooper’s widow and son, Barnes picked up the phone and called former rival and newly-elected Governor Nathan Deal.

The two worked closely with state legislators to re-write a state law regarding medical coverage of state law enforcement officers.  The proposed law continues medical coverage at the same rate for surviving family members of state law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Today, House Bill 107 passed the Georgia Senate after having passed the House last week, and is now headed to Governor Deal’s desk to be signed into law.

As BLG partner Allison Barnes Salter put it, “This isn’t a partisan issue.  Most Georgians can agree the families of those who gave their life to public service deserve this support.”


BLG’s Charlie Tanksley Named to 2010 Georgia Legal Elite

Congratulations to BLG founding partner Charles B. Tanksley, who was recognized as one of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine this month.

Tanksley was recognized as one of the best lawyers in Georgia for governmental affairs.

BLG Named to 2010 US News & World Report Best Law Firms

Congratulations to the BLG team.  In their inaugural Best Law Firms publication, US News & World Report ranked BLG a “National Tier 1” and “Atlanta Tier 1” law firm.

This is the first year US News has ranked law firms, and they reviewed nearly 9,000 law firms across the country to obtain their rankings.

According to US News, “Achieving a high ranking is a special distinction that signals a unique combination of excellence and breadth of expertise.”

Click here to view BLG’s award information on the US News & World Report webpage.

BLG Files Suit in Drowning of Cobb Police Officer

Today, the widow of Thomas “Brent” Stephens filed a civil lawsuit against Kenneth Paul Reda arising from Brent’s death in a boating collision on Lake Allatoona on the night of April 22, 2010.  The suit was filed by Lori Stephens in the Superior Court of Paulding County.  Also named were Reda’s wife, Melissa, and his father-in-law, who the suit alleges may be responsible because they may have owned the boat and permitted Reda to use it.

Brent Stephens and Reda were friends and fellow police officers and SWAT Team members with the Cobb County Police Department.  Reda was driving the boat and Brent, along with Shelley Powell, were passengers.  The suit alleges Reda drove the boat into a fixed marker at a high rate of speed at night, causing part of the marker to break off and strike and injure Brent and throw him overboard, where he drowned.

The suit also claims Reda tampered with evidence and made false statements to conceal what happened.  “Rather than immediately call 911 for his friend,” BLG’s John Salter said, “Reda instructed Mrs. Powell to remove all the empty beer bottles, conspired to mislead law enforcement, falsely denied there was any alcohol on board, and lied to the 911 operator and the other first responders about what happened.”  Mr. Salter is counsel for Lori Stephens, along with BLG’s Allison Barnes Salter.

According to the suit, Reda deceived law enforcement into thinking Brent jumped from the boat as prank because if law enforcement believed Brent would be found alive, Reda hoped he might avoid a blood alcohol test.  Emergency crews searched throughout the night of April 22.  Brent’s body was not found until the next afternoon.

According to Allison Salter, “it is awful that Brent’s family spent hours hoping to find him alive when Reda knew the truth all along. And some of the things Reda said to mislead the investigation have been unnecessary, untrue and very hurtful to the family.”

“I know Brent and Lori because we all went to South Cobb High School and are around the same age,” Allison Salter said.  “It might be a long legal journey, but our goal is to collect a substantial monetary judgment that will mitigate for Lori and her young children the loss of a brave officer and, to them, a really good husband and father.”


Barnes Law Group Wins Final Approval For $14 Million Insurance Suit

A Fulton County Georgia state court judge has given final approval for the settlement of a suit challenging the unlawful health insurance renewal premiums charged to more than 3,000 Georgians.

BLG attorney John Bevis, one of the lead attorneys for the class, says “This is a meaningful settlement with a real cash payout. It is not one of those settlements where you get coupons or a $25 discount off your next purchase.”

Class members who were insured under the UMEG IMP policy issued by Fortis Benefits Insurance Company and submit a claim will receive a refund of 112% of the amount they wrongly paid. The case has been litigated all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court.


BLG Wins $825,000 for Motorcycle Accident Victim with Brain Damage

BLG founding partner Charles B. Tanksley recently obtained a settlement in the amount of $825,000.00 in a case pending in the Superior Court of Paulding County.  The case involves a 56 year-old motorcyclist injured when he was forced to lay his bike down to avoid a motorist that pulled out in front of him.

The incident was initially written up by the investigating officer as a single vehicle accident, stating that the motorcyclist simply lost control of the motorcycle and overturned in the median of State Road 120 at the intersection with Evans Mill Drive in Paulding County.

As a result of a thorough investigation by BLG, an eyewitness was identified who had been traveling immediately behind the motorcyclist.  The witness testified on video deposition that a white SUV pulled in front of the motorcycle, placing the fault with the driver of the SUV.

BLG used 911 recordings to identify the driver of the SUV.  In addition, a passenger of the SUV stated during the 911 call that “[the driver] must not have seen the cyclist and [the cyclist] was trying to avoid us when he wrecked.”

BLG Wins Appeal In Medical Malpractice Case

When a child is injured during the birthing process, Georgia law requires parents to bring a claim to recover the future medical expenses within two years of the negligent act, even though the child has seven years to file suit.  But what happens when you didn’t realize and weren’t told there was medical negligence surrounding the birth?

Parents represented by BLG recently won an appeal answering this question because evidence was uncovered during the case that the medical providers concealed important information from the parents, including that the baby’s breech presentation was not determined upon admission, that there were fetal heart decelerations during the birthing process and that there was a 33-minute gap just before the birth, where no fetal heart rate was recorded.  The hospital also redacted the time stamps from the lab reports to make discovery of the negligence more difficult.

Despite that more than two years has passed, the parents still sued asserting the medical errors caused their baby to suffer brain damage and develop cerebral palsy.  The suit also claimed that the medical providers tried to hide their mistakes by saying the baby was not deprived of oxygen during the birthing process.  After BLG uncovered many misrepresentations that were made to the family, the nurse midwife and hospital defendants sought to dismiss the parents´ claims for future medical expenses as untimely.

In a 19-page opinion, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the evidence was “sufficient to create a jury question on the issue of whether Defendants´ deliberately misrepresented and withheld information.”  The appeal successfully reversed a trial court ruling that would have prevented the parents from recovering the cost of future medical care to treat cerebral palsy until she was 18 years old.

This is a significant case for other victims of medical malpractice because it expressly reaffirms that “a physician has a fiduciary duty to inform his patient of any injury or negligent mistreatment [and that the patient] has the right to rely upon what her physician tells her.”  Therefore, when a doctor, nurse or hospital doesn’t give a full disclosure about what happens in a medical procedure, the time to sue for medical negligence can be tolled.

$11M Class Action Settlement Against Fortis

A Fulton County State Court Judge has given preliminary approval for the settlement of a class action lawsuit against Fortis Benefits Insurance Company (FBIC) and others.

The case alleges that FBIC improperly raised health insurance premiums based on length of time the policy was in force and medical condition of policyholders. Notice of the settlement with an opportunity to participate in the $11 million settlement will be mailed to more than 5,700 Georgians by June 14th who purchased an Upper Midwest Employer Group Individual Medical Plan (UMEG IMP) issued by Fortis Benefits Insurance Company from 1996 through July 2008.

Daniel S. Kahn, DC, brought suit in 2004 claiming that certain Georgia laws and regulations imposed limits on the amount of renewal premiums that could be charged for small group health insurance that was marketed and sold to Georgia small business owners and individuals. The trial court certified the case as a class action lawsuit in 2008 and a settlement agreement was reached after the Supreme Court of Georgia denied review of the Court of Appeals decision to affirm a Fulton County trial court’s class certification order.

The case is reported as Fortis Ins. Co. v. Kahn, 299 Ga.App. 319, 683 S.E.2d 4 (2009), cert. denied (2010).