Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
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This case arose from a taxpayer grievance concerning whether the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors (the “Board”) had been diligent in determining that the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company LLC (“StadCo”) had a usufruct interest in the Mercedez-Benz Stadium that was not subject to ad valorem taxation. In 2017, Albert Love and other Fulton County taxpayers (collectively, Appellants) sued the Board, the individual members of the Board, and the Board’s Chief Appraiser, seeking mandamus and other relief. Since then, the suit was dismissed, appealed to the Court of Appeals, remanded, amended to add claims and intervenors, then dismissed again. At issue in this appeal was whether the trial court properly dismissed Appellants’ fourth amended petition, which asserted claims for mandamus, declaratory and injunctive relief, and a refund of taxes paid. Appellants contended the trial court erred in dismissing the petition, allegedly sua sponte, arguing primarily that the trial court had applied an incorrect standard of review. They also contended the trial court erred in declining to find OCGA 10-9-10 unconstitutional. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. View "Love et al. v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Tax Assessors et al." on Justia Law

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Rubin Harvey, while driving a dump truck in the course of his employment with Oxford Construction Company, collided with a tractor driven by Johnny Williams, causing severe injuries to Williams. After Oxford conceded liability, a jury returned a general verdict for $18 million. Defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, although defendants did not make a contemporaneous objection, Williams’s counsel made an improper and prejudicial statement in closing argument that clearly violated the trial court’s order granting the defendants’ motion in limine. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Williams’s petition for certiorari to address whether a party must object to argument of counsel that allegedly violates a granted motion in limine in order to preserve the issue for appeal. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative and reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "Williams v. Harvey et al." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified to three questions of law to the Georgia Supreme Court relating to a lawsuit brought in federal district court by Fife Whiteside, the trustee of the bankruptcy estate of Bonnie Winslett. Whiteside sued GEICO to recover the value of Winslett’s failure-to-settle tort claim against GEICO so that the bankruptcy estate could pay creditor Terry Guthrie, who was injured in an accident caused by Winslett. The certified questions certified asked the Supreme Court to analyze how Georgia law applied to an unusual set of circumstances that implicated both Winslett’s duty to give GEICO notice of suit and GEICO’s duty to settle the claim brought against Winslett. The Supreme Court was unable to give unqualified “yes” or “no” answers to two of the certified questions as they were posed; rather, the Court answered the questions only in the context of the circumstances of this particular case. "Winslett remains liable to Guthrie, even if her bankruptcy trustee succeeds on the failure-to-settle claim against GEICO; therefore, if the bankruptcy estate does not recover enough from GEICO to satisfy Guthrie’s judgment, the estate would not be fully compensated for Winslett’s damages, and GEICO would escape responsibility for breaching its settlement duty to Winslett. Such an outcome would deny Winslett the full measure of compensatory damages allowed under Georgia law." View "GEICO Indemnity Co. v. Whiteside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the surviving spouse of Franklin Callens and the administrator of his estate, sued defendants, the owner and manager of an apartment complex where Callens was killed during an armed robbery. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants were negligent in failing adequately to secure their premises from criminal activity. Defendants prevailed at trial, and Plaintiffs appealed, contending, in relevant part, that the trial court erred in giving a jury instruction on the law applicable to “licensees” in premises liability cases. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment on that issue. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review on the issue of whether the trial court erred in charging the jury on what duty a landowner owed a licensee, when there was evidence showing that plaintiffs' decedent was a guest of a lawful tenant of the landowner. The Supreme Court found the trial court did not err in charging the jury, and therefore affirmed the appellate and trial courts. View "Cham et al. v. ECI Management Corp. et al." on Justia Law

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At the center of this appeal was a dispute between the Polo Golf and Country Club Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”) and Forsyth County over the validity of Section 4.2.2 of Forsyth County’s Addendum to the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual, an ordinance that made HOAs “responsible for maintenance of all drainage easements and all stormwater facilities within the entire development.” The HOA argued that Section 4.2.2 was unconstitutional and otherwise invalid, and that individual lot owners were responsible for maintaining stormwater infrastructure on their lots. Variants of this case were litigated and appealed multiple times before the Georgia Supreme Court and other Georgia courts, including a 2019 appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. On remand from the Supreme Court's "Polo Golf II" decision, the trial court evaluated and rejected the HOA’s remaining claims that Section 4.2.2 was invalid because it required the HOA to trespass on the private property of homeowners, constituted involuntary servitude under the United States and Georgia Constitutions, and exceeded the scope of the ordinance that authorized Forsyth County to promulgate the Addendum. The trial court thus denied the HOA’s motion for summary judgment and granted the defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The HOA appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Polo Golf & County Club Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. Cunard et al." on Justia Law

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At heart of this case was a dispute between the Polo Golf and Country Club Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”) and Forsyth County, Georgia over the validity of Section 4.2.2 of Forsyth County’s Addendum to the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual, an ordinance that made HOAs “responsible for maintenance of all drainage easements and all stormwater facilities within the entire development.” The HOA argued Section 4.2.2 was unconstitutional and otherwise invalid, and that individual lot owners were responsible for maintaining stormwater infrastructure on their lots. Variants of this case have been litigated and appealed multiple times before other Georgia courts, including a 2019 appeal the Georgia Supreme Court. On remand from the Supreme Court's "Polo Golf II" decision, the trial court evaluated and rejected the HOA’s remaining claims that Section 4.2.2 was invalid because it required the HOA to trespass on the private property of homeowners, constituted involuntary servitude under the United States and Georgia Constitutions, and exceeded the scope of the ordinance that authorized Forsyth County to promulgate the Addendum. The trial court thus denied the HOA’s motion for summary judgment and granted the defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The HOA appealed, and finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Polo Golf & Country Club Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Cunard et al." on Justia Law

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Ronald and Christy Cannon sued Oconee County, Georgia after a vehicle chase initiated by an Oconee County sheriff’s deputy ended in their daughter’s death. The trial court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment, holding that: (1) the Sheriff of Oconee County in his official capacity, not the County, was liable for the deputy’s actions; and (2) the Cannons could not substitute the Oconee County Sheriff in his official capacity as the defendant in place of Oconee County because the statute of limitations had expired and the relation-back doctrine embodied in OCGA 9-11-15 (c) did not apply. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s determination as to the proper defendant but reversed its ruling that relation-back did not apply. The Georgia Supreme Court held that the application of the relation-back doctrine depended on whether the proper defendant knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against him but for the plaintiff’s mistake, not on what the plaintiff knew or should have known and not on whether the plaintiff’s mistake was legal or factual. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded with direction for the trial court for application of the proper standard. View "Oconee County v. Cannon et al." on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in five appeals consolidated appeals for review to address two discrete issues – one related to pleading vicarious liability, and the other related to vicarious liability and apportionment. In August 2009, Keith Trabue’s wife, Shannon, suffered a catastrophic brain injury resulting from pulmonary edema leading to full cardiac arrest within days of giving birth to the couple’s daughter at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. At the hospital, Shannon was treated by physician-employees of Atlanta Women’s Specialists, LLC (AWS), including Dr. Stanley Angus and Dr. Rebecca Simonsen. Trabue and the bank serving as his wife’s conservator (Plaintiffs) later filed a medical malpractice action naming as defendants only Dr. Angus and AWS, although the complaint contained allegations regarding Dr. Simonsen’s conduct and alleged that AWS was vicariously responsible for the acts and omissions of both Dr. Angus and Dr. Simonsen. The complaint did not allege any independent acts of negligence on the part of AWS. At a two-week trial in 2017, after the close of the evidence, Dr. Angus and AWS, asked the court to require the jury to assess the percentages of fault of Dr. Angus and Dr. Simonsen and to apportion the damages between Dr. Angus and AWS under OCGA 51-12-33 (b). The Supreme Court asked the parties to brief two questions: (1) Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the plaintiffs sufficiently pled a claim for vicarious liability against AWS based on the conduct of Dr. Simonsen?; and (2) Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that, to obtain apportionment of damages with regard to the negligence of Dr. Simonsen, the defendants were required to comply with OCGA 51-12-33 (d) by filing a pretrial notice of nonparty fault? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the negative and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment. View "Atlanta Women's Specialists, LLC et al. v. Trabue et al." on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this wrongful death and personal injury case to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred by holding that TriEst Ag Group, Inc., the employer of the driver whose truck struck and killed the decedent, was entitled to summary judgment on the estate’s claims of negligent entrustment, hiring, training, and supervision because TriEst admitted the applicability of respondeat superior and the estate was not entitled to punitive damages. The Supreme Court concluded OCGA 51-12-33 ("the apportionment statute") abrogated the decisional law rule on which the Court of Appeals relied in affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. Accordingly, judgment was reversed. View "Quynn v Hulsey et al." on Justia Law

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When Lillie Mae Bedford died in 1997, she left a residential property in Marietta, Georgia by testamentary devise to her daughter, Jennifer Hood. Although the Bedford estate never made and delivered a deed to Hood to perfect a conveyance of legal title, Hood lived on the property for some time after the death of her mother, and she paid the taxes associated with it. But beginning in 2009, the taxes on the property were unpaid, and in 2013, the property was sold to Crippen & Lawrence Investment Co., Inc. at a tax sale. More than 12 months later, Crippen took steps to foreclose the statutory right of redemption, and Crippen gave Hood notice of foreclosure. Once the redemption period expired, Crippen petitioned for quiet title. Hood did not respond to the petition, but the Bedford estate appeared and moved to dismiss, asserting the estate was entitled to notice of the foreclosure, and had not been served with such notice. Crippen responded that the estate was not entitled to notice because the executor by his conduct had assented to the devise of the property, which by operation of law passed title to Hood notwithstanding that the estate had made and delivered no deed, and that the estate, therefore, no longer had any interest in the property. A special master of the trial court determined the estate was entitled to notice and dismissed the quiet title petition. Crippen appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon further appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the appellate court: "assent may be presumed from legatee’s possession of the property. ... Although Crippen would not have standing to move a probate court to prospectively compel the executor of the Bedford estate to give assent that has been so far withheld, Crippen has standing in this quiet title proceeding to establish that the executor previously assented to the devise to Hood under the old Probate Code." View "Crippen & Lawrence Investment Co., Inc. v. A Tract of Land Being Known as 444 Lemon Street, et. al." on Justia Law