Confidential Settlement for Premises Liability Accident
Confidential Settlement for Motorcycle Wreck
$705,000 Verdict in Commission Dispute Case
Confidential Settlement in Golf Cart Injury
$1.9 Million Recovered in Pay Dispute
Confidential Settlement For Atlanta Chiropractic Malpractice
Confidential Settlement in Commission Pay Dispute
Confidential Settlement In Dental Malpractice Case
$3.25 Million For Alleged Fraud in Sale of Business
$5.5 Million Medical Malpractice Verdict
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The Supreme Court of Georgia has promulgated rules and revised deadlines to deal with the stay at home and shelter in place demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. These essentially amount to an extension of all court filing and response deadlines. Much of the regular business of the state’s court system has been shut down since March 14, when Chief Justice Harold Melton declared a state of judicial emergency because of the pandemic. That order has since been extended to June 12, meaning no trials have been held or grand juries convened in the past 10 weeks. This has created a huge backlog of cases that would all hit at a time when the courts will be forced to furlough and lay off staff to meet the state’s requirement to cut spending. This two-edged whammy will result in trial delays for those injured in Georgia and who have sought redress from the courts.

Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, the chairman of the Senate judicial budget subcommittee, started Monday’s hearing at the capitol with court officials by reminding them of the state of the economy. He said not every agency may wind up having to cut 14%, but that every agency, from the Supreme Court to the Department of Education, had to suggest spending cuts. “The governor’s office is not exempt from this 14% reduction proposal, nor is the legislative branch, nor is any executive branch agency, and the judicial branch is not either,” Ligon said.

The Honorable Sara Doyle, the presiding judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, set the tone by telling lawmakers that to meet the proposed cuts the court would have to let go 17 or 18 staff members and furlough others for 22 days in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. “The end result is an appellate court that can’t fully function or won’t fully function,” she said. “Now more than ever, this country and this state need fully functioning courts at all levels and not one working with half the necessary staff on a shortened work year,” she said. “While the cuts being requested are a terrible burden on my court’s ability to function and to those who will lose their livelihood, the impact on the state and the people who live and do business here is much more profound if its court system is crippled.”

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Many clients are getting dental implants in the upper jaw. The sinuses are located right above your upper teeth, which poses a potential problem when pulling teeth and installing dental implants such as sinus perforation when having one of your upper teeth extracted?

The anatomy of the sinus floor and its relationship to the upper teeth varies from person to person. In some people, the sinus floor is well above the roots of their teeth with bone separating the roots from the sinuses. While in other people the floor follows the roots more closely. In essence, wrapping around the roots with minimal bone between the sinus and tip of the roots. Still others actually have the roots of the teeth up into the sinus, which seems to work fine, so long as they are not disturbed (i.e., extracted forcefully). For those whose sinuses are very close to or even touching their tooth roots, there is a risk that the sinuses will be perforated when their tooth is extracted. This risk is greater if the tooth being extracted is infected or has an abscess at the tip of the root. This situation calls for extreme caution and if the dentist does not comply with the standard of care, a communication between the mouth and sinus can occur and this is often a very serious complication which could have been avoided which can take months and even years to resolve. 

When considering an extraction of an upper tooth, if  x-rays show that the tooth’s roots are near the sinus floor or actually in the sinus cavity; or if there is an infection or abscess, the dentist should take a cone beam CT scan (“CBCT”) of that area prior to extracting the teeth and certainly before placing the implant in that area.  A CBCT can assess the proximity of the roots to the sinus or assess the degree of existing defects that may lead to a sinus perforation following an extraction. Since CT scans are imperative in planning and placing implants, it is considered below the standard of care for dentists to not perform a CBCT before extraction and implant in this area. In fact, due to the complicated anatomy, it may be necessary to perform a pre-extraction CBCT and a pre-implant CBCT. This is so because the extraction may cause significant changes to the bone structure that would affect the available bone in which to place the implant. If there is enough bone height, the implant will fail, or worse, the implant will be screwed into the sinus where it will invariably lead to communication between the mouth and sinus and repeated infections. Sinus perforations, if not diagnosed and left untreated, can persist, leading to an oral-antral fistula—an opening between the sinus and the mouth. Oral-antral fistulas can result in sinus infections as well as fluid drainage from the mouth to the nose. They can also lead to drinks being leaked into the sinus, whistling noises when breathing, and a whole host of unpleasant problems caused by the opening between the mouth and sinus.  It is important to manage sinus perforation at the time it occurs to prevent it from progressing to a chronic oral-antral fistula. Proper care and treatment after a communication is caused often requires that an oral surgeon consult with an ENT and/or the two of them working together to resolve the issue.

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With the post COVID-19 shelter at home situation nearing an end, many people contemplate getting dental work that they may have needed before all of this started, but have not been able to complete. This could be because of shelter in place and business laws that have been enacted to combat the spread of the corona virus, or it may be due to a personal decision to not receive non-emergency dental or medical care until the pandemic has subsided.  This pent up demand may be seen as a way to have a new beginning or to get ready for the post COVID-19 lifestyle. As an Atlanta Dental Malpractice lawyer, I am far too aware of injuries that can result from botched dental work. While I hope that it happens to none of you, chances are some of you will receive dental treatment which is below the standard of care and this may result in a dental malpractice lawsuit to recover for injuries.

Dental implants, root canals, and tooth extractions are just three of the many dental procedures that result in serious nerve injuries to the lingual and inferior alveolar nerves. It’s a simple (not simplistic) error that dentists make that cause these injuries. Most times, the injury occurs because the dentist does not take into account the distance between the tooth root and the nerves, or worse yet, doesn’t even take pre-procedure x-rays to make sure there is sufficient room between the tooth roots and the nerves. Other times, the injuries are the direct result of sloppy dentistry or the dentist simply not caring enough about his patient to ensure that the procedure is done correctly and the nerve is not placed in danger.

Dental implant procedures are “in” these days and they are effective, if performed within the standard of care. Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot more clients coming into our office complaining of nerve injuries after the dental implant was placed too deep into the jaw and resulting  in a damaged nerve. There are many ways for the dentist to measure the amount of bone height that is available for the implant prior to drilling the hole for the implant and placing the implant in the jaw. While some of these measurements have a margin of error, most methods today do not.

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A new report based on an Atlanta Journal Constitution (“AJC”) review of inspection reports for Georgia’s assisted living communities (which includes nursing homes and senior living facilities) and large personal care homes revealed hundreds of recent infractions, including 140 violations of residents’ rights, 51 citations for failing to report serious incidents and dozens of medication errors and cases where residents with dementia went missing. Yet, despite these horrific incidents of negligence and malpractice, these very same facilities are benefitting from laxer oversight and accountability in the form of recent legislation to protect them against lawsuits.

The AJC review also exposed 180 new cases with violations involving residents being harmed or placed at high risk of harm. The details of these and hundreds of other new violations are available through an updated version of the AJC’s senior care ratings site. I highly recommend scouring these (not just browsing) before making any decisions as to whether you want to place your loved one into one of these facilities, and if so, which one. I would also look at the number of government web sites which compile statistics on these facilities. If you do this, you will see a pattern and, while you may not be able to settle on the very best one, you will certainly be able to discern a pattern of sloppiness and negligence on the part of the worst ones.

Some of the reports date to spring 2018, though state regulators only made them public in recent months. The AJC unveiled its website last fall as part of its investigation of the state’s senior care industry. This was met with a lot of publicity and well deserved credit to the AJC for helping expose the sloppy care and abuse that is rampant in this industry.

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All dentists and dental offices must use best practices and follow the standard of care to protect patients and provide the safest office environment possible. This has always been the law in Georgia, but now, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, these dental providers must do much more.

To reduce the risk that patients and staff will be exposed to COVID-19, the American Dental Association has provided various guidelines to dental offices. The guidelines echo the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

These are among the highlights of the new guidelines and should be instituted by general dentists, oral surgeons, endodontists, periodontists, and all other dental specialists:

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As I have previously written, we are working remotely to assist you with your legal needs during the COVID-19 crisis. To help law firms conduct their practice of law during this emergency, Governor Kemp issued another executive order which allows the remote notarization and witnessing of documents.

The order reads in relevant part:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED

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The number of Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse cases has soared in the last 20 years. Driven in part by more diligent oversight by family member and the state of Georgia, the number of cases and the egregiousness of the malpractice is eye-opening.

In response to these new revelations, the Georgia legislature is contemplating new laws to put some teeth into enforcement of nursing home abuse. A bill that would increase fines and require more staffing and training was overwhelmingly approved last month by the Georgia House.

Georgia House Bill 987 is expected to be taken up by the Senate in the coming days. Gov. Brian Kemp has said he supports the effort to improve standards for the state’s senior care providers, and many within the industry also support the bill. So, this is a no-lose proposition that should easily sale through the legislative process and become law.

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When you list your house with a real estate agent or broker to lease it, most people are careful to make sure the fee is listed correctly in the contract. While that is certainly important, there are a whole host of other important terms in the typical real estate listing agreement that must be analyzed before you sign. Many of these additional clauses (some hidden in fine print and other more obvious but not very clear) bind you, the landlord/lessor, to having to pay the real estate agent who leased your rental property fees on top of the fee you agreed to have the real estate agent list and lease the house. At times, the additional fees could amount to thousands of dollars in additional fees over and above what you thought you were contracting for.

Many listing agreements also require the payment of a commission if your tenant renews the lease for another year. This is yet another reason to read and understand anything you are asked to sign before you sign it.  Many more require that the payment of a full listing fee to the agent if you wind up selling your house to the tenants, even if that transaction was not even contemplated until after the lease is up. All contracts are negotiable, and you should make sure that you are comfortable with the terms of any agreement you enter into. If a specific condition is important to you and the person you are negotiating with does not want to give in, you may need to walk away and find someone else to work with. But, in order to do this, you must understand what the contract says, what the legal implications of the language are, and under what circumstances the different clauses kick in. Needless to say, this is one of those contracts that you should have your attorney look oer before entering into. If you don’t have an attorney, hire one who litigates contract disputes on a regular basis to review the contract and advise you BEFORE you sign it.

Once armed with the legal knowledge of what the contact says, you are in a better position to negotiate terms instead of blindly signing a piece of paper that is pushed in front of you. Oh, and by the way, I have had too many clients come to me after the fact (after they signed a contract) and tell me to help get them out of paying under the contract because they didn’t read the contract and/or didn’t understand what it said. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but not reading a contact is no defense. In Georgia, the law of contracts is clear: One he can read, must read. Armed with this knowledge, and having had the good sense to address some common scenarios that may play out under the contract before they happen (which is what a good lawyer helps you do), you can gauge if what you are asking for is unreasonable. If it is reasonable and the other side does not budge, realize this early on; do NOT sign the contract, and move on. Only do business with people who, in your best judgement, are reasonable and trustworthy. Obviously, this ability to weed out bad eggs is a variable one, but you should do your best to do this on the front end, i.e., before you sign a legal contract with someone with whom you are bound under the law to work with and honor the contract.

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Below is the synopsis following a “routine” car accident. Well, it turned out to be anything but routine.

On Thursday, I was traveling on Piedmont Road to Peachtree Street in Atlanta. I was involved in a accident that was not my fault. I was knocked unconscious with head, chest, knee, and back injuries. I regained consciousness within seconds of the accident but I noticed that I did not have good balance and that my body felt funny and I was having trouble standing, walking, and communicating. I have to say, at this point I was a bit disoriented and I saw a person approaching in dark clothing. I attempted to give him my license, thinking he was a police officer. He said that he was not the police, but the wrecker operator, asking me if I wanted to tow my car. I was dazed and he didn’t seem to care, he just went past me to my car. I moved my hand, and didn’t see my licence. I opened my wallet looking for my license for quite some time. I had no idea it was in already in my hand. The tow trucker operator came back to me and I explained that I could’n find my license.  He told me to look in the passenger seat, and it was there!  Things were not clear to me and I became scared. I realized at the scene of the accident that I was dropping everything (e.g., my wallet, the pen I was trying to use to take notes of the other driver, my cellphone, my license, the other drivers papers. It was seem and I realized I was not in control of my motor skills. This worried me more as time passed and it did not get better. Surely, this accident did not leave me in this condition.  The police officer came toward me and I think he could tell right away that I was not stable. Wait, he thinks I’m drunk, or worse, high on drugs. I’m not but he check my eyes and reflexes and he suspects that I have been driving under the influence. I am not but he does not know that. I am getting more scared and I think this is making my situation worse by the minute. My heart is starting to race and I feel feint.  The officer notices that I have a big bump on my forehead. My head is aching and my chest feels like it’s in a vice. The officer, I think, realizes that I was not driving under the influence, but rather that I am hurt and need and ambulance. He calls the ambulance for me and I wait in fear. I am confused, I hurt in so many place, I am too disoriented to clearly explain to the officer how this happed (and he doesn’t seem interested in talking with me anyway, at least not now). He sees the bump on my head and he tells me that the pain in my chest was caused by the seat belt or maybe the airbag, I forget). Why do I have such pain in left knee. Plus the pain in my head and neck, and back. I wait as the officer says he will make a note in the police report that I am hurt badly.

I’m am taken by ambulance to the hospital for X-rays, CT  scans and MRI’s. I full battery of tests, and I am told that I have a traumatic brain injury in addition to all of the other assorted injuries to my neck, back and head. What does this even mean?
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The recent lawsuit makes clear,  Georgia companies think they can fire any employee (and they believe this applies to pretty much any employee from the janitor up to the CEO) to avoid paying outstanding money owed. This lawsuit was filed by an ousted chief executive officer against his former employer, an Atlanta-based flooring company giant, claiming he was terminated in a way that wrongly prevented him from receiving millions of dollars in severance benefits.

The former CEO’s suit illustrates that Georgia companies, both large and small, often try to fire employees and try to potentially save millions of dollars in commissions, severance benefits, bonuses, salary, stock option payments and and other payments for wages earned by the employee but not yet paid. While not every company operates like this, many of them in Georgia do. And the sleazy ones that do sometimes avoid paying large amounts of money because those workers who are affected either (1) don’t know their legal rights to recover all monies owed to them; (2) realize that they are owed the money but decide to not pursue it because they believe that the lawsuit will be too costly or harmful to their business prospects; or (3) hire a lawyer to represent them agains the company who is inexperienced and/or not familiar with the area of law dealing with pay disputes, commission disputes and the like.

I have seen this all too often. A typical scenario is when one of the best sales representatives for a company gives notice on that they would be leaving the company (as they feel they should do in order to provide the company with proper notice). Instead of rewarding the sale person for doing the right think the company advises the employee that they are terminated immediately, walks the employee out and then refuses to pay them their final commission check. The employee then feel as if they have no recourse and signs some type of release in exchange for a small fraction of what they are owed (and in the process, becomes bound by an overly broad release that adds additional non-compete and other restrictive covenants). When, In actuality, they could have gotten ALL of the money they are owed without having to sign the documents pushed in front of their face by the employer. Why? Because they did not consult with an experienced lawyer who regularly handles these type of commission disputes and who understands the rights of the fired employee and the duties of the company who terminated the employee.

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