Two up and coming Savannah plaintiffs firms have combined into one. Savannah plaintiffs lawyers W. Andrew Bowen and Paul Painter III of Bowen Painter have joined forces with John Manly, a solo plaintiffs lawyer, to form Bowen Painter Manly.
The contingency fee firm handles personal injury, wrongful death and business disputes in coastal Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
“It was a natural marriage of the two firms,” said Painter, adding that he and Bowen, both Savannah natives who’ve practiced together for about seven years, “had been looking to grow for a number of years.”
Bowen Painter was one of the plaintiffs firms handling a medical malpractice case that in March won an $18 million verdict from a Chatham County State Court jury for their client, Joan Simmons, after a seven-day trial.
Bowen was co-counsel with lead counsel Jeff Harris of Harris Lowry Manton, who filed the suit in 2014. Yvonne Godfrey of Harris Lowry Manton and Owen Murphy, who has his own plaintiffs firm in Savannah, were the other lawyers on the plaintiffs team.
“It was the right time to take the next step,” Painter said. “We thought very highly of John and approached him. He shares our vision. He wants to do things right, ethically and professionally.”
Manly started out as an assistant district attorney for the Augusta Judicial District and then spent five years at Savannah general practice firm Bouhan Falligant before joining the plaintiffs side.
Savannah is a collegial bar, Painter added, where all the lawyers know each other. Manly’s wife, Megan Manly, works for Ellis Painter Ratterree & Adams, where one of the founders was Painter’s father, Paul Painter Jr., who died last year.
Painter, a U.S. Navy veteran, started his plaintiffs career at Harris Penn Lowry, the predecessor firm to Harris Lowry Manton, and then he opened his own shop before partnering with Bowen. After a brief foray into insurance defense, Bowen has spent the last 17 years as a plaintiffs lawyer.
In the recent $18 million med-mal verdict, Simmons, 58, went to the emergency room in 2004 for acute back pain, was treated and released. Ten days later, she went back to the ER for a blood infection, was treated and ended up paralyzed with no use of her legs. Her lawyers contended that the hospital staff failed to diagnose an abscess in her spine. The lawyers for the doctors group said she already had diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis, acute kidney failure and sepsis, and attributed the damage to the infection.
The jury apportioned 90 percent of the fault—$16.2 million—to SouthCoast Medical Group and Dr. Sarah Barbour, who were defended by Carlton Joyce and Gregory Sewell of Bouhan Falligant.
It apportioned the other 10 percent of the fault—$1.8 million—to Candler Hospital Inc. and St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, defended by Wiley Wasden III and W. Richard Dekle of Brennan, Wasden & Painter. However, the hospital had been dismissed from the case prior to trial.
The three trial lawyers are active in the legal community. Both Bowen and Painter are past presidents of the Savannah Trial Lawyers Association.
Painter serves on the executive committee for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He is board chair for the State Bar of Georgia’s General Practice and Trial Section and a fellow of the State Bar of Georgia Foundation.
Bowen is a member of the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial and Insurance Section, serving as vice-chair of the automobile law committee and a member of the plaintiff’s policy task force.
Manly is a member of the state bar’s Board of Governors and a graduate of the Young Lawyers Division’s leadership academy, where he served on that group’s executive council. He is also the Savannah regional coordinator for the High School Mock Trial Competition and has helped coach the St. Vincent’s Academy High School Mock Trial Team.
Manly is also a trustee of the Georgia Legal History Foundation, the board president for the Coastal Center for Developmental Services and board secretary for the Ossabaw Island Foundation.