McHugh Fuller, a law firm which focuses on nursing home abuse and neglect, ran a full-page ad in The Toccoa Record, a Georgia newspaper. The ad stated that Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa, a nursing home owned by PruittHealth, was cited for deficiencies in the care of its residents. Also in the ad, the law firm invited those suspecting abuse or neglect of a loved one at the facility to call the law firm.

The day after the ad was published, PruittHealth filed a verified complaint against the law firm for temporary and permanent injunctive relief under the Georgia Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The same day the verified complaint was filed, the county court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining McHugh Fuller from publishing, in any newspaper or other media, advertisements regarding PruittHealth. The TRO also scheduled a hearing a few weeks thereafter to “determine whether injunctive relief should continue.”

At the hearing, the trial court concluded the ad was deceptive and violated the law. The court then signed an order enjoining McHugh Fuller “from publishing or causing the offending advertisement to be published in the future” and required that McHugh Fuller “remove or cause to be removed at its expense all electronic postings of the advertisement” within 20 days.

Thereafter, McHugh Fuller filed a verified answer and a motion to amend and/or for reconsideration of the court’s order. The trial court never ruled on these motions, and McHugh Fuller subsequently filed a notice of appeal

In its notice of appeal, McHugh Fuller requested that the clerk “omit nothing from the record.” PruittHealth requested the court include only those items submitted to the court through the date the injunction was entered, thereby excluding the verified answer, motions, and supporting exhibits McHugh Fuller had filed with the trial court after that date. Following a hearing, the trial court ruled in favor of PruittHealth, excluding all documents filed by McHugh Fuller after the injunction was entered. McHugh Fuller filed a second notice of appeal as to this ruling.

The Georgia Supreme Court consolidated both appeals, and ruled, first, that the trial court erred in granting injunctive relief against the law firm. Although McHugh Fuller had notice of the interlocutory hearing, the Court found that the law firm had no notice that the trial court intended at that hearing to consider the merits of permanent injunctive relief.

Second, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order excluding all documents filed by McHugh Fuller after the injunction was entered. Under the law, said the Court, when there is a dispute over the contents of an appellate record, the trial court is required to hold a hearing to resolve the dispute. Since the trial court failed to hold the required hearing, the high court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

The case is annexed here – McHugh Fuller Law Group PLLC v PruittHealth-Toccoa LLC

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