After 46 years, Hubert “Hu” Hamilton retired from the practice of law on December 31, 2022. He founded The Hamilton Firm in 1998 at its original location on Rossville Boulevard, near the Georgia – Tennessee state line, serving clients in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
In 2012 the firm moved to its present location on Broad Street in Chattanooga, and it has evolved into a regional law firm focusing on truck wrecks, and other catastrophic injury and death cases.
After passing the Georgia bar and graduating from Mercer law school in June 1976, Hubert “Hu” Hamilton “hung out a shingle” in his hometown, Macon, Georgia. There were not a lot of paying clients for a new lawyer with no experience, but there was a large supply of citizens accused of crimes, stuck in jail and unable to make bail. The U.S. Supreme Court had decreed that everyone was entitled to legal representation, if accused of a serious crime, but there was no public defender system in Georgia in the 1970’s. So, the judges depended on local lawyers willing to defend poor citizens accused of crimes. Hamilton volunteered to take indigent defense cases and quickly learned how to try a jury case. At his very first trial, he obtained a not guilty verdict for a young man accused of possessing burglary tools.
During the next few years, Hamilton tried numerous jury cases, and the judges begin to assign him more serious cases, as he grew in knowledge and experience. In those early years, he learned to love the courtroom, and acquired the skills that would serve him well as a trial lawyer in the years to come.
Besides trying cases before juries, he quickly learned about filing criminal appeals, since getting an acquittal was a rare feat. In his second year practicing law, he had five appeals before the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Within two years of starting out, Hamilton had also tried his first civil jury case, on behalf of a teenager who was injured in a car wreck. He lost that case in a dispute over who was driving the car but learned valuable lessons after being ambushed by a deputy sheriff called to testify on direct examination.
In 1979, he accepted a position with a small firm in Rossville, Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. For a while he enjoyed a more rural style of practice in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, trying both civil and criminal cases all over northwest Georgia, along with some cases in Alabama. The firm had a general practice, including lots of divorce and custody cases, and writing wills, along with personal injury cases, mostly arising from car wrecks. Hamilton developed a workers’ compensation practice for the firm, helping hundreds of employees who had been injured on the job in Georgia.
After a few years, Hamilton began to focus more and more on personal injury cases. In 1985, Hamilton was part of the team that represented the plaintiff in a landmark liquor liability settlement against the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. A man was killed, and his wife severely injured, in a wreck caused by an employee of the Choo-Choo. The Tennessee lawsuit alleged that the employee was drunk, having been served an excessive amount of alcohol at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Choo-Choo, and therefore the Choo-Choo bore responsibility for the wreck. A first of its kind, seven figure settlement was reached before trial.
By 1987 Hamilton was admitted to practice in Tennessee, as the law firm continued to expand its personal injury practice further into Tennessee, while continuing to try cases throughout Georgia. Hamilton focused on the more complex cases, including trucking cases, involving severe injury or death.
Also in 1987, the first round of “tort reform” passed the Georgia legislature, and Hamilton volunteered to assist the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association in challenging the new laws. He tried a trucking case in Catoosa Superior Court where, over objection, the judge admitted evidence under the new tort reform law showing that the plaintiff’s employer had granted her sick leave while she was out of work recovering from her injuries. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, but Hamilton was not satisfied with the amount of the verdict. Hamilton appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, challenging the new law that allowed such “collateral source” evidenced to be admitted against the injured plaintiff. The Supreme Court agreed that the new law was unfair and unconstitutional, and ordered a new trial in Denton v. Conway Southern Express, 261 Ga. 41 (1991). That case leveled the playing field for injured plaintiffs all over Georgia, disallowing evidence of collateral sources of payment or benefit into evidence against plaintiffs in personal injury cases.
Hamilton returned to the courtroom and tried the Denton case again and obtained a much better result for the plaintiff.
Among his many other cases, Hamilton negotiated a settlement in 1997 on behalf of a three-year-old boy severely injured in a head-on collision with a tractor trailer in Bradley County, Tennessee. The trucking company had only $750,000 in liability coverage, the minimum amount required by federal law, so Hamilton used a theory of broker shipper liability to bring in other defendants. The other defendants included the shipper who had overloaded the truck with corn in South Georgia, and the produce broker in Florida who profited as a result. The case was ultimately settled for a far greater amount than the minimum limits carried by the trucking company. With the settlement funds the quality of life of a severely disabled boy was vastly improved.
Over the years, some of his most gratifying cases were those where Hamilton was able to obtain substantial settlement funds for a disabled child. Money really does make a huge difference for such children and their parents, such as enabling them to acquire a van with a wheelchair lift, to make a home fully accessible, or to provide attendant care.
In 1998 Hamilton opened his own firm on Rossville Boulevard in Chattanooga. The Hamilton Firm focused exclusively on personal injury, wrongful death, and workers’ compensation cases. Hamilton’s practice has never included representation of insurance companies or big business. He always focused on providing aggressive, high-quality representation for injured clients and their families, helping them to obtain justice and just compensation. In 2012, The Hamilton Firm relocated its offices to 2401 Broad Street, as the firm grew to include four trial lawyers.
It is impossible to quantify the total amount of money Hamilton has obtained for injured clients over the years through verdicts and settlements. During his 46-year career as a trial lawyer, Hamilton tried numerous jury cases, both criminal and civil. Many cases were brought to him by other lawyers, from other states or because they needed someone with specialized knowledge of brain injury, industrial accidents, or truck wrecks.
The lawyers at The Hamilton Firm continue to represent clients with the same compassion and zeal that Hamilton instilled in the firm.