Seated L-R Beth Bentley and Haley Crass. Standing L-R Richard Foster and Marc Hood. Photo by John Disney/Daily Report.
Seated L-R Beth Bentley and Haley Crass. Standing L-R Richard Foster and Marc Hood. Photo by John Disney/Daily Report. (John Disney/Daily Report)

Richard Foster has moved his insurance defense practice from the Marietta firm Hicks, Casey & Foster to Carlock, Copeland & Stair, along with two associates, Beth Bentley and Marc Hood, and a staff member, Haley Crass.

Foster, who has a trucking defense practice, said it was not an easy decision. He had been a name partner at Hicks, Casey & Foster since 2004, after joining the firm in the late 1990s.

“I love Bill Casey to death. I learned everything from him, and I appreciate everything he taught me. It’s very difficult to leave someone who was basically my brother—that was tough,” Foster said.

The Marietta firm is now Hicks, Casey & Morton, as Erica Morton has become a name partner.

Foster said a larger Atlanta firm with a higher Southeastern profile offered more opportunities. He handles Georgia cases for insurers and companies, and few of his clients are local.

They include Prime Inc., a trucking company in Springfield, Mo.; Tyson Foods, in Springdale, Ark.; National Indemnity in Omaha, Neb.; Columbia Insurance Group in Columbia, Mo.; and North American Risk Services in Orlando, Fla.

“I think I’ve done good work for my clients. I’ve tried some nasty cases. But if your clients are outside the state of Georgia, it’s hard to build on your reputation,” said Foster, who is 49. “A firm with a good, solid reputation in the Southeast could help. I can use my relationships and Carlock Copeland’s relationships.”

Carlock Copeland, a litigation firm, has 77 lawyers in its Atlanta headquarters, Charleston, S.C., and a new outpost in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Foster started thinking about joining Carlock Copeland after he won a defense verdict for a shared client, Prime Inc., in a tough case last year over a horrific highway accident.

Foster defended a tractor-trailer driver who pulled off the shoulder and back onto the highway in front of a van transporting prisoners north from Florida. The van ran into the back of the truck, killing the van driver and two others and seriously injuring seven other van passengers. The 2009 accident occurred on Interstate 20 east of Atlanta, in Greene County, and it took the Georgia State Patrol 10 hours to clear the scene, Foster told the Daily Report last year. Medical bills from the crash totaled $2 million, and two of the plaintiffs needed another $3.5 million each in medical care. Foster estimated potential exposure for his client at between $30 million and $50 million.

One key issue for Foster was establishing that the truck’s speed was above the minimum freeway speed of 40 mph. The defense argued that the van driver must have fallen asleep at the wheel, because he never braked. The van’s cruise control was still set at 71 mph when it hit the tractor-trailer.

After a weeklong trial before Judge William Duffey Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the jury deliberated two hours and returned with the defense verdict.

Foster took the case before trial from Carlock Copeland partner Fred Valz III, who encountered a conflict. “Fred had done a fabulous job working it up. He gift-wrapped it for me,” Foster said. “So I knew they knew what they were doing from a trucking standpoint. It seemed like a good fit.”

Carlock Copeland’s managing partner, Wayne D. McGrew III, said Foster and his team’s experience was attractive. “They have a strong trucking practice and they have a lot of trial experience, high ethics and a great work ethic,” he said. “A lot of our partners have known Richie over the years. We’re excited to have him here and we look forward to many good years with him.”

Briefly

Kelly Whitehart has joined Duane Morris’ intellectual property practice as a partner from Miller & Martin. Whitehart is an IP litigator, representing technology companies. She is a board member of the Atlanta Bar Association’s IP section and is doing pro bono work for Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.


Troutman Sanders has added Lei Fang as of counsel from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and David Norden as of counsel from Greenberg Traurig, where he was an associate. Fang is an intellectual property prosecutor and advisor, who holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of Arizona and a medical degree from Nanjing Medical University. Norden, a business litigator, handles products liability, toxic tort and other disputes.


Michelle LeGault and Wes McCart joined employment boutique Hall, Arbery, Gilligan, Roberts & Shanlever in January, giving the Buckhead firm 10 lawyers. LeGault, an employment and business litigator, joined as counsel from her own firm, LeGault Legal. McCart joined as an associate from Alston & Bird, where he litigated employment disputes and traditional labor matters and counseled clients in employment law.


Morgan Clemons has joined Aldridge Connors from the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance as an associate in the regulatory compliance group, advising financial institutions. Clemons, who graduated from Duke University School of Law in 2010, has also worked as a staff attorney for the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Elie Wolfe has joined the board of directors for the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network, which provides pro bono representation to asylum seekers and victims of crimes such as trafficking and domestic violence. Wolfe is an associate at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.


Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion is launching a new book series on law and Christianity to be published by Cambridge University Press. John Witte Jr., the center’s director, is the series editor. The first title, “Pope Benedict XVI’s Legal Thought,” edited by two Italian academics, Marta Cartabia and Andrea Simoncini, will be published in March, followed in April by Witte’s “The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy.”