Notable Litigation Cases
Wade H. Watson III
Hasty v. Castleberry, 293 Ga. 727, 749 S.E.2d 676 (2013): Represented sister of executor/trustee who claimed he made improper gift of $1 million to his college. Trial court granted partial summary judgment to sister and Supreme Court affirmed. Court rejected executor/trustee's defenses of unclean hands, estoppel and statute of limitations, and remanded case for trial on damages for the improper gift and other issues.
Norman v. Gober (II), 292 Ga. 351, 737 S.E.2d 309, (2013): Obtained unanimous decision affirming the denial of a motion to dismiss a petition for declaratory judgment that sought guidance as to application of a will's no contest clause to beneficiaries who were not named parties to caveat after dismissal of a caveat. The Supreme Court found that the filing of the caveat triggered the no contest clause and that the caveat could, under some circumstances, be attributed to persons other than the named caveator. Therefore, the executors were right to seek declaratory judgment from the court as to how to apply the no contest clause.
Reinhardt University v. Castleberry, 318 Ga. App. 46, 734 S.E.2d 117 (2012): Obtained decision affirming the denial of a motion to dismiss in a lawsuit filed against a university on behalf of trust beneficiary seeking to impose constructive trust over $1 million wrongfully donated to university by trustee. The Court of Appeals held that the funds were subject to a constructive trust to the extent that the beneficiary could show that the trustee was not authorized to transfer the $1 million and that he breached fiduciary duties to her, even without allegation of wrongdoing on the part of the university.
Norman v. Gober (I), 288 Ga. 754, 707 S.E.2d 98 (2011): Obtained unanimous opinion affirming dismissal of minor grandchild's caveat to grandmother's will. The grandchild lacked standing because he was not an heir at law, he could show no harm from probate of will, and he stood to possibly benefit from will.
Hood v. Todd, 287 Ga. 164, 695 S.E.2d 31 (2010): Obtained judgment for executors in will construction case, defeating claim of woman who asserted that she was a child of testator born out of wedlock and was entitled to a child's share of his estate even though she was not named in the will. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Probate Court of Hall County and held that the will excluded the purported out of wedlock child.
Kothari v. Patel, 262 Ga. App. 168, 585 S.E. 2d 97 (2003): Obtained largest verdict in history of Lowndes County – $1.87 million – on behalf of minority shareholder in closely held corporation who was excluded from participation in profits from a $1.1 million land sale and income from billboard advertising business. The verdict included $1.2 million in punitive damages against the controlling shareholders, officers and directors. Judgment affirmed by Georgia Court of Appeals.
Otwell v. Regions Bank, Superior Court of Hall County (1997): Obtained $1.8 million verdict for Otwell family for losses caused by bank's breach of fiduciary duties in administration of estate. Hall County's longest civil jury trial (five weeks) and largest damage award.
West v. West, 825 F. Supp. 1033 (N.D. Ga. 1992): Represented minority shareholder in claims against controlling shareholder of West Lumber Company. After five years of litigation, forced multimillion dollar settlement on the eve of trial in January 1993.
Ford Motor Co. v. Stubblefield, 171 Ga. App. 331, 319 S.E. 2d 470 (1984): Obtained affirmance of $9.3 million jury verdict in wrongful death action against Ford Motor Co. arising out of defective design of the fuel system of the Mustang II; verdict included $8 million in punitive damages.
Laura Kennedy Bonander
Hasty v. Castleberry, 293 Ga. 727, 749 S.E.2d 676 (2013): Represented beneficiary of trust and obtained summary judgment on liability for a breach of fiduciary duty by the trustee (plaintiff’s brother).
Norman v. Gober (II), 292 Ga. 351, 737 S.E.2d 309 (2013): Represented executors of estate and successfully defeated motion to dismiss action for declaratory judgment regarding issue of who violated an in terrorem clause in filing caveat to will
Reinhardt University v. Castleberry, 318 Ga. App. 416, 734 S.E.2d 117 (2012): Represented beneficiary of trust in suit for constructive trust against the university that was recipient of misappropriated trust funds and successfully defeated the university’s motion to dismiss.
Norman v. Gober, 288 Ga. 754, 707 S.E.2d 98 (2011): represented co-executors and successfully obtained dismissal of a caveat to a will on the grounds of lack of standing.
Hood v. Todd, 287 Ga. 164, 695 S.E.2d 31 (2010): represented co-executors and successfully defeated a claim by an alleged out-of-wedlock child who sought to be included in a will under its definition of “child.”
– Represented real estate developer sued under a guaranty after the real estate market crashed, filed counterclaim and negotiated favorable settlement.
– Represented widow of wealthy businessman during complex, lengthy and contentious estate administration process.
– Represented widow in estate dispute and negotiated pre-suit settlement in mediation on favorable terms.
– Represented heirs of multi-million dollar estate with 12 trusts and a family partnership, and resolved dispute about real estate value in clients’ favor through negotiation.
– Successfully investigated, negotiated and resolved numerous multi-million dollar False Claims Act cases involving allegations of healthcare fraud, grant fraud and other types of fraud against the United States.
– Successfully defended appeals filed against the United States in the Second, Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals.