Beasley Allen’s Atlanta lawyers were hopeful they would be able to resume jury trials at the end of 2020, but a spike in COVID-19 cases dashed their hopes. As cases in Georgia – particularly in the Metro Atlanta area – remained high, courts are mostly staying closed for trials. Chris Glover, Managing Attorney-Atlanta says:
Technically, you can have a trial, but they’re not really setting the vast majority of civil cases on the calendar because of the pandemic spike. It’s unsure when that will change, so we are carrying on as best we can to be ready. We’re hopeful with the vaccine that soon we can get back into the courtroom. Our clients need justice. The best thing right now is that we have more cases ready to for trial than we ever have. It’s going to be exciting when things return to normal.
Meanwhile, the office continues to grow. Two new staff members joined the team. Samantha Fitzpatrick and Heather Gamba are working to assist lawyers Alyssa Baskam, Ben Keen and Rob Register. Alyssa moved from representing nursing home patients and their families to handling personal injury & products liability cases. We are also excited to announce that Alyssa also recently made “Principal” in the firm. This month, Tom Willingham joins the office as Of Counsel, and he also will be working on personal injury & products liability cases. Tom’s talent and experience are a tremendous addition to the Atlanta office. We are certainly excited to have him on board.
Kendall Dunson, who specializes in personal injury and products liability litigation, was a featured speaker at the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (GTLA) convention, held at the St. Regis in Atlanta at the beginning of December. He shared his experiences with the firm’s recent trial in Mobile, Alabama, one of the first in-person trials in the state to proceed after the COVID restrictions were lifted. The case, Wiggins v. Mobile Greyhound racing, sought to hold the racetrack and casino liable for allowing their employee to drive while intoxicated under the state’s Dram Shop Law. The case ended in a $12.4 million verdict for the Plaintiff, whose fiancé was killed in a crash with the intoxicated employee.
Kendall shared how the process was different given COVID restrictions, and how they might proceed in Georgia. He shared photographs of the Courtroom setup and described the COVID restrictions put in place by the Court – like placing the judge and witnesses behind plexiglass shields and requiring face masks and social distancing – to protect the parties, the Court staff, and, most importantly, the jury.
Kendall, who is in the firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, made this observation relating to trials during the pandemic:
As Plaintiff attorneys, we have to decide if it is best for our client to proceed with trial during this pandemic or wait until circumstances improve. We were successful because we had a unique opportunity, a Judge who wanted to proceed, great technology staff and a case suitable to try despite the issues created by a pandemic.
Atlanta lawyers also participated in Clark’s Christmas Kids with the GTLA, spearheaded by the New Lawyers’ Division. As co-chair of the division, Alyssa Baskam helped organize the firm’s efforts in support of the annual holiday giving project. It was the third year GTLA participated. Clark’s Christmas Kids partners with the Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS) to provide Christmas presents to all foster children in the state of Georgia. Alyssa said: “Every year that is their goal, and miraculously by the last day they always make it.”
This year was no exception. GTLA was able to sponsor 332 foster children through the help of its generous members (an increase of more than 100 from the previous year). Beasley Allen sponsored 11 children as a firm and also had almost 100% lawyer participation from the Beasley Allen Atlanta office. In addition to firm sponsorships, individual lawyers sponsored an additional 17 children. That means in total Beasley Allen Atlanta sponsored 28 children!
Chris Glover had this to say about Atlanta and the holiday season:
It was a strange holiday season in Atlanta this year. Usually, Atlanta is really hectic through the holidays, with activities back to back every night. This year was more quiet, but I’m happy that we were still able to help bring holiday cheer to those who needed it.
We are hoping that as 2021 gets underway, courtrooms will be able to cautiously reopen, allowing our Atlanta lawyers to help the folks we represent get their cases heard. The pandemic certainly has presented unusual challenges for everyone throughout 2020. I would say we aren’t sorry to see 2020 come to an end and we are staying optimistic for a very good 2021.
This story appears in the January 2021 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.