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Tim Burson joined Bovis, Kyle, Burch & Medlin, LLC in 1989 in the firm's Surety and Fidelity practice. His primary area of practice is probate litigation involving claims against commercial surety bonds, but also includes general litigation involving estates, wills, trust, conservatorships, and breach of fiduciary duty claims. These practice areas naturally lend themselves to indemnity, salvage, and subrogation collection litigation for firm clients. Tim's collection services for firm clients also leads to litigation with and on behalf of financial institutions and inevitably to creditor rights representation before United States Bankruptcy Courts. Part of Tim's services in the Surety/Fidelity practice group involves construction litigation - frequently defending claims against performance and payment bonds, as well as fidelity insurance claims.

Tim writes and frequently prepares topics for surety and fidelity groups, at seminars and continuing legal education presentations in house and through larger industry associations as well as local bar associations and committees.

Tim graduated in the top 25% of his class at The University of Alabama School of Law (J.D. 1985). He competed for and served as a member of the John A. Campbell Moot Court Board through which Tim was also a teaching assistant and instructor in Legal Bibliography and appellate writing courses. He served as an editor on The University's Law and Psychology Review 1983-85. He was an officer of the Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society and an officer of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity. Tim also served as an Honor Court Justice as a law student and co-chaired the orientation program for the first year law students in 1984. Tim's service as a student and leader in The University's School of Law was recognized through his receipt of the Dean Thomas A. Christopher Leadership Award--awarded annually to one student and one teacher at The University of Alabama School of Law in the Honors Week Program.

Born in Birmingham Alabama 10/27/58, Tim moved with mother and younger sister to West Georgia in 1968 after his father’s death. Tim has three sons (Jonathon, John, Davis) and a daughter (Claire). Tim and Melody Burson are celebrating their 23rd year of marriage.

Publications

Tim authored the chapter “Penal Sum Bond Limits” in The Law of Probate Bonds (ABA 2001) and will be preparing two chapters (bond liability for loan loss and losses before bonds issued) in the update of this book projected for publication in 2014. He co-authored the Mock-Trial sessions on Probate litigation at the 2007-2009 “Hot Topics in Guardianship” for the State Bar of Georgia. He has spoken at meetings of the DeKalb County Bar association, the Gwinnett County Bar Association, and the Atlanta Bar Association--Fiduciary Law Committee. Since Bovis, Kyle, Burch & Medlin, LLC’s 1990 charter membership in the Southern Surety and Fidelity Claims Association, Tim and other firm attorneys have prepared papers and topics for publication and discussion at each of the annual conferences held in Atlanta, Charleston, New Orleans, and Tampa.

Speaking Engagements

  • State Bar of Georgia—Hot Topics in Guardianships –Mock Trial 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
  • DeKalb County Bar Association Bonds for Probate Fiduciaries 2010
  • Gwinnett County Bar Association—Probate Bonds 2010
  • Atlanta Bar Association-Fiduciary Law Committee –Bonds for Estates 2008
  • American Bar Association—The Law of Probate Bonds 2001

Representative Experiences

Conservatorships of Trinetria Stokes, Shantia Stokes and Tamaria StokesProbate Court of DeKalb County Georgia Estate number 2004-1712 (Spring 2014) Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Company issued conservator bonds to a grandmother of 3 minor girls, after the death of their mother.  The grand-mother conservator settled claims for the minors and was ordered to provide additional bonds, which she obtained from a different surety.   Thereafter two of the children-wards were killed when a fire destroyed the grandmother’s home.  The grandmother failed to timely or even file reports required of her as conservator and a successor conservator and administrator asserted claims against Mutual Bar Plan and the grandmother on a variety of basis including breach of duty for not bringing a negligence claim against herself and her homeowners insurer relating to the deaths of the two minors in the fire.  Tim Burson on behalf of Mutual was able to defeat the claims against the Bar Plan bonds—asserting discharge of the deceased minor’s conservator bonds and arguing that any liability for the grand-mother under any conservator’s bond was novated by the replacement/increase bonds she obtained from the successor surety.

 Estate of Marvin King – Probate Court of Troup County Georgia 2014  Old Dominion Insurance Company issued a $232,000 bond for an ex-wife of the decedent—survived by the principal’s daughter and son from a prior relationship following death in 2003.  Counsel for the heirs had agreed that no annual return was necessary, but the agreement was not in writing so no returns for 10-11 year period were prepared or filed—placing burden of proof of property expenditures on principal and surety.   The principal made uneven distributions over the course of 10 years of an open administration without any returns or full disclosure.   The son-heir made a claim for accounting and that distributions had been unequal in favor of the bonded principal’s daughter and urged restoration of all commissions taken. Tim Burson on behalf of National Grange was able to guide, supervise and assist in preparation of missing annual returns, and an acceptance of discharge of surety and bonded principal. 

 Conservatorship of Elkins-Probate Court of Columbus-Muscogee County Georgia (Fall 2013-Winter 2014) The surety issued a $350,000 conservator bond for a brother of his and adult incompetent female who lived with and was cared for by their father—a disbarred attorney.  The father was not bondable.   The bonded principal lives out of state and works overseas. The principal provided all the ward’s money and income to his father-the disbarred attorney. The bond principal failed to file annual returns for more than 6 years and when cited by the court—the father could not account for the funds he had spent (it was believed that he used funds of the ward to restore funds he had been unable to account from his IOLTA account from his practice of law).  On behalf of the Surety,  Tim Burson raised a number of discharge defenses for the surety in that the Probate Court had failed to cite the ward or surety after the first year an accounting was not filed and arguing that this failure allowed the funds to remain in the hands of the unbonded father of the ward they were mismanaged and misspent after the surety could have secured them if the court had fulfilled its duty to audit returns or cite the principal for failure to file each year.  In the face of these defenses, the Probate Court accepted a settlement, allowing credits for a number of undocumented  expenses for the ward, and allowing the principal to repay the conservatorship over-time through the proceeds from the sale of real property owned in other jurisdictions. The surety avoided a surcharge in the face of exposure of more than $200,000.

Estate of Paul Young – Probate Court of Hall County Georgia (October 2013)  The surety in this case bonded the surviving widow of a decedent for $350,000.00 who had an adult child and minor child of prior marriages and relationships.  The decedent had been killed as the result of a jet ski accident.  The bonded principal consented to a year’s support award for the minor child of 1/3 of the decedent’s estate and filed her own Years’ Support claim expecting to receive 1/3 of the estate value as her award.  However a new probate judge was elected and award Year’s Support for the widow-principal of less than $1,000.00.  In the interim, the widow-principal had taken funds from the decedent’s bank accounts and other proceeds and paid toward the joint mortgage on real estate which was owned by the principal as a result of survivorship deeds.  Under Georgia law the debt owed by the decedent on property subject to a survivorship deed is not considered a priority debt of the estate and as a result the payment by the bonded principal of the decedent’s portion of the debt was held by the Probate Court to be self-dealing.  As a result, the principal had expended more than $225,000 of estate funds primarily for her own benefit leaving her unable to fund the distributive shares of the two surviving children totaling more than more than $225,000.00.  Tim Burson on behalf of the surety raised discharge defenses for the surety based on the untimely objections to prior returns and the consent of the children to the minor child’s Year’s Support award and negotiated a settlement of $165,000.00.

Estate of Caswell v. Stephen Noel and Ohio Casualty Insurance Company, 2012  This is an estate matter where the surety issued a $3.5 million bond for a temporary administrator who served as such for 3 years  while legal heirs exhausted legal proceedings over a contest of competing wills.  During the course of the temporary administration, the bonded temporary administrator filed estate tax returns delinquently and some were allegedly not mailed on purpose by his staff—in order to conceal conversion, and larceny by a particular staff member of the estate taxes due, and causing the estate to incur substantial interest and penalties to taxing authorites.  In addition the funds belonging to the estate and a business owned by the estate went into the IOLTA account maintained by the administrator-attorney, but from which the administrator’s staff member was converting money.  Ultimately the winner of the will contests made claims against the temporary administrator and his surety for more than $1.25 million—even after more than $350,000 in restitution payments by the temporary adminstrator.  After exhaustive forensic accounting with Jack Nicholson’s consulting firm, and detailed analysis by the firm’s Roberta Henderson, Ohio Casualty was able to convince the estate to mediate the case.   The mediation was grueling and at the end of the day, Tim Burson and Ohio Casualty were still more than $900,000 apart from amount sought by the bond claimants—with serious contentions about more than half of that amount dividing the parties.  However after the mediation ended Ms. Henderson was able to meet with counsel for the claimant and convince them to settle for a payment of only $200,000 from the surety—with the temporary administrator paying another $20,000 and acknowledging his indemnity obligation to the Surety.  He has been faithfully remitting significant indemnity payments to the Surety since settlement.

In Re Estate of Haring, 314 Ga. App. 770, 726 S.E.2d 86 (2012)  This case was decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals in March 2012 and affirmed a decision at the trial level before the Probate Court of Columbus Muscogee County in an action for accounting and damages from a bonded conservator and his surety by two adult heirs of the ward following her death.  Tim Burson represented Western Surety Company (CNA Surety) and not only defeated the claims against the bonded principal, but demonstrated that the claims were so baseless that the trial court awarded attorneys’ fees incurred by the Surety and conservator to defend the claim as an obligation of the deceased ward’s estate (i.e., the inheritance of the claimant heirs) as an administrative expense due to the conservator.  The Court of Appeal in Haring affirmed the award of fees charged by the surety and owed by the conservator as part of the costs and expenses incurred by the conservator in fulfilling his duties.

Ray vs Stewart , 287 Ga. 789, 700 S.E.2d 367, 10 FCDR 3025 (2010).  A legal heir and beneficiary under testator's will represented by a respected former probate judge brought motion to set aside a judgment discharging conservator after testator's death.  Tim Burson defended the conservator’s surety and argued that the beneficiary had no standing to contest the discharge judgment and that the motion was time barred.  After an evidentiary hearing, the Probate Court, DeKalb County, Jeryl Rosh, J., denied the motion and the beneficiary-heir appealed.  The Georgia Supreme Court, affirmed the trial court decision that the beneficiary-hier did not have a property interest, protected by due process, with respect to receiving actual notice of proceedings for discharge of  conservator—such interest was protected by the statutory scheme appointing a guardian ad litem and that the beneficiary-heir could have filed an objection having voluntarily and actively participated in the conservator proceedings for several years.  

Estate of Morgan Lane Dize 2004  The Dize case involved claims against a $7.2 million conservator’s bond issued by Hartford Fire Insurance Company for the father of a 4 year old girl who sustained permanent brain damages as the result of a car accident.  In this case, before the first year following appointment, the bonded conservator spent all of the ward’s money except about $300,000.   Tim Burson representing Hartford with respect to the bond claim raised a host of special surety defenses—including increase of risk and impairment of collateral to defend the Surety.  Ultimately Mr. Burson was able to negotiate a settlement saving Hartford the principal sum of $1.2 million, a year’s interest on $6 million, and a plan that makes Hartford the legal beneficiary of the ward’s estate—if there is any money left when she dies (The Ward gets about $14,000 per month for the rest of her life after she turns 18 years old).  Mr. Burson also obtained judgments and judgment liens against the father and mother of the ward—as well as a successful finding that Mr. Dize’s obligations to Hartford are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

 Transamerica Insurance Company v. Stephen H. Hyman United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia 1997  In Hyman, a surety for a probate property guardian paid a surcharge judgment for the waste and mismanagement of the property guardian—who had taken his son’s personal injury money and bought almost $100,000 in sports memorabilia without court permission—mostly baseball cards on the eve of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.  When the surety sought recovery from the bond principal—he filed for bankruptcy protection.   Tim Burson on behalf of Transamerica filed an adversary proceeding objecting to Mr. Hyman’s discharge from the debt owed to Transamerica.  The court granted Mr. Burson’s motion for summary judgment in a blistering condemnation of the bond principal’s actions and defenses.

Continental Insurance Co. v. Gazaway, 216 Ga.App. 125, 453 S.E.2d 91 (1994).  In a guardianship proceeding, guardian plundered and converted all of the ward's property.  Tim Burson defended Continental Insurance Company, the named surety for the property guardian, arguing that Continental did not issue a bond for this property guardian or for benefit of this ward. The Probate Court of Gwinnett County, Miller, J., pro hac vice entered judgment against guardian and Continental jointly and severally.  Continental appealed. The Court of Appeals, Smith, J., held that Continental was not liable under bond, because bond issued had a copy of a power of attorney for issuing agent from a different company (i.e., Transamerica) and there was no evidence that agent had any authority to issue bonds for Continental when this bond was issued. The Court of Appeals further rejected an argument that the agent had apparent authority to bind Continental because neither guardian nor probate court was justified in relying on limited agent's apparent authority to issue bond as attorney-in-fact for insurance company under the statute of frauds and equal dignities rule. 

American States Insurance Company vs. Angela Libien and A-1 Truck Company d/b/a Speedsportz, LLC, United States Bankruptcy Court-Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division Adversary Proceeding Case Number 12-05615-JRS. (August 22, 2013)  Some cases are interesting, some are dangerous, and some are fun.  Some take interesting and unexpected twists and turns based on bizarre facts. Bovis Kyle attorney Tim Burson obtained a decision for Liberty Mutual Surety in one of these cases when the US Bankruptcy Court in Atlanta issued its ruling after a trial that was held earlier this year. The US Bankruptcy Court issued judgment on August 22, 2013, rejecting a disputed vehicle title claim by a used car dealer-former employer-roommate-romantic partner against a Liberty title bond principal.   The claim arose after Liberty issued a Georgia title bond in 2011 for its bond principal on a 2004 Mini Cooper which was originally sold in Oklahoma. The principal, who had tried to get a title in Oklahoma and California before coming to Georgia, asserted that she had paid for the vehicle and that her ex-lover as the owner of a used car dealership had unlawfully included the vehicle in his dealership inventory and floor plan security loan and prevented her from receiving the car title in Oklahoma. Liberty interpleaded its bond penal sum into federal district court in Georgia asserting that if the principal prevailed in the dispute between the principal and the claimant, Liberty should get its bond sum back. The floor plan lender never asserted a claim and did not intervene in any of the litigation. The two competing claimants had been in separate litigation in Oklahoma for several years with salacious claims against each other. Liberty's principal filed for bankruptcy protection in Georgia shortly after the district court interpleader action was filed. The district court first stayed the interpleader proceeding and ultimately transferred the interpleader to the Georgia bankruptcy court as an adversary proceeding. The bankruptcy court joined the interpleader with a separate pending adversary bankruptcy proceeding by the bond claimant, which included a host of exemption and discharge objections for alleged fraud, embezzlement and conversion. After a two day trial the bankruptcy court took the case under advisement and in August 2013 ruled in favor of the dealership owner and declared almost $50,000 of debt owed by the bankruptcy debtor to the claimant as non-dischargeable based on findings of dishonesty and fraud. However the bankruptcy court rejected the claims against the debtor with respect to the vehicle and ordered the entire bond sum paid by Liberty returned to Liberty.

Community Involvement

Tim is involved in a number of denominational activities. He served as a National Certified Trainer for Royal Ambassadors through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Tim is a member of the Georgia Baptist Convention's Men's Ministries and Royal Ambassadors Advisory Councils. From 2003-2010 Tim served as a lay leader for Noonday Baptist Association in Cobb County, Georgia as the Royal Ambassadors Coordinator.

Memberships/Professional Trade Affiliations

  • State Bar of Georgia
  • Louisiana State Bar
  • American Bar Association-Tort Insurance Practice Section/Fidelity & Surety
  • Southern Surety and Fidelity Claims Association

In The News

Honors & Awards

  • Av Rated by Martindale-Hubbell; highest rating award for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability
  • Super Lawyers.com
  • Dean Thomas Christopher Award—University of Alabama 1985
  • Top 25 Law School Class University of Alabama (1985)
  • Bench & Bar Legal Honor Society—Officer 1984-85
  • Best Exam/American Jurisprudence Book Awards—Torts; Civil Procedure; Food & Drug Law; Real Property Securities;
  • Co-Chair-1L Orientation-The University of Alabama School of Law 1984
  • Law & Psychology Review-Assistant Editor 1984
  • Honor Court Justice 1983
  • Avanti Counselor (Freshman Orientation) -The University of Alabama 1981, 1982