McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC v. PruittHealth-Toccoa, LLC

McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC, ran a full-page advertisement in a Northeast Georgia local newspaper, noting that Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa, a Stephens County nursing home owned by PruittHealth, had been cited by the government for deficiencies in the care of its residents and inviting those suspecting abuse or neglect of a loved one at the facility to call the law firm. On the following day, PruittHealth filed a verified complaint for temporary and permanent injunctive relief under the Georgia Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA), and petitioned ex parte for a temporary restraining order. That same day, the Stephens County Superior Court entered a temporary restraining order enjoining McHugh Fuller from publishing, in any newspaper or other media, advertisements regarding PruittHealth utilizing the language of the ad. At the hearing, PruittHealth presented testimony that the government citation referenced in the ad arose from an old report, that the cited deficiencies had been resolved immediately, and the ad had caused severe damage to the facility’s reputation. McHugh Fuller presented testimony to substantiate and justify the specific language used in the ad. The trial court found the ad to be deceptive and thus in violation of the UDTPA. Thereafter, the trial court signed an order enjoining McHugh Fuller “from publishing or causing the offending advertisement to be published in the future” and requiring McHugh Fuller remove postings of the ad. McHugh Fuller filed a verified answer and a motion to amend and/or for reconsideration of the court’s order. The Supreme Court consolidated both parties’ appeals of the trial court’s rulings. In case S15A0362, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by granting permanent injunctive relief at the conclusion of the interlocutory hearing without giving McHugh Fuller clear notice at the time that it was doing so. In case S15A0641, the Court found the trial court erred in its conclusion that that the appellate record in McHugh Fuller’s initial appeal should not have included any filings in the trial court submitted after the entry of the permanent injunction on June 2, 2014.