Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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In this case’s previous appearance before the Georgia Supreme Court, the primary issue involved taxation of alcoholic beverages at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Clayton County appealed the trial court’s partial grant of summary judgment to the City of College Park on claims the City was not receiving its statutorily mandated share of taxes collected on alcoholic beverages. When the parties could not resolve their dispute, the City filed a complaint naming as defendants the County and two businesses that operated within the Airport, Mack II, Inc. and General Wholesale Company (the “taxpayer defendants”). The complaint sought an interlocutory and permanent injunction against the County (as well as the taxpayer defendants), and a declaratory judgment as to the City’s and County’s division and collection of alcoholic beverage taxes, as well as the taxpayer defendants’ payment of those taxes. The complaint also asserted claims against the County for an accounting, unjust enrichment, attorney fees, and damages. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the County’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that sovereign immunity does not apply to the City’s claims or the taxpayer defendants’ cross-claims for indemnity and contribution. The court granted the City’s motion for partial summary judgment on the declaratory judgment counts, finding that the Alcoholic Beverage Code, OCGA 3-3-1 et seq., permitted the City to impose alcoholic beverage tax only within its municipal limits and the County to impose such a tax only in the unincorporated areas of the County, that neither could impose and collect alcoholic beverage taxes within the other’s taxing jurisdiction, and that the taxpayer defendants had to submit tax monies only to the entity authorized to collect the funds. Ultimately, the Supreme Court vacated this judgment and remanded the case for consideration of the “threshold question of whether sovereign immunity applies at all in suits between political subdivisions of the same sovereign (like the City and the County).” The Supreme Court disagreed sovereign immunity did not apply to multiple issues raised by this case. The case was remanded for reconsideration. View "City of College Park v. Clayton County et al." on Justia Law

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The federal United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia certified questions of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court regarding the scope of the “acceptance doctrine” in negligent construction tort cases. At issue was whether and how the acceptance doctrine applied as a defense against a claim brought by a subsequent purchaser of allegedly negligently constructed buildings. Thomaston Crossing, LLC (the “original owner”) entered into a construction contract with appellee Piedmont Construction Group, Inc. to build an apartment complex in Macon. Piedmont then retained two subcontractors – appellees Alan Frank Roofing Company and Triad Mechanical Company, Inc. – to construct the roof and the HVAC system, respectively. In 2014, the complex was completed, turned over to, and accepted by the original owner. In 2016, the original owner sold the apartment complex to appellant Thomaston Acquisition, LLC (“Thomaston”) pursuant to an “as is” agreement. Shortly after the sale, Thomaston allegedly discovered evidence that the roof and HVAC system had been negligently constructed. Thomaston filed suit against Piedmont, asserting a claim for negligent construction of the roof and HVAC system and a claim for breach of contract/implied warranty. Piedmont then filed a third-party complaint against Alan Frank Roofing and Triad Mechanical because both companies had allegedly agreed to indemnify Piedmont for loses arising out of their work. Each of the appellees later moved for summary judgment based in part on the defense that Thomaston’s negligent construction claim is barred by the acceptance doctrine. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the acceptance doctrine applied to Thomaston’s claim, and that “readily observable upon reasonable inspection” referred to the original owner’s inspection. “Without any real claim of privity, Thomaston nevertheless contends that it should be treated like the original owner because it is the current owner-occupier of the property. But doing so would undermine the acceptance doctrine’s foundational purpose of shielding contractors from liability for injuries occurring after the owner has accepted the completed work, thereby assuming responsibility for future injuries. There is no ‘current owner-occupier’ or ‘subsequent purchaser’ exception to the acceptance doctrine, and the facts of this case do not compel us to recognize one here.” View "Thomaston Acquisition, LLC v. Piedmont Construction Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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In the early stages of the underlying lawsuit, the trial court struck fifteen paragraphs from plaintiff's complaint pursuant to OCGA 9-11-12 (f), but the Court of Appeals reversed most of that order. The Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to address how a trial court should evaluate a party’s section 9-11-12 (f) motion to strike matter from a pleading on the ground that it is “scandalous.” Because the trial court in this case did not properly evaluate the defendants’ motion to strike, and because that court should have the opportunity to properly exercise its discretion regarding the motion, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals' judgment in part and remanded with direction to vacate the trial court order and remand the case to the trial court for further analysis. View "Chappius v. Ortho Sport & Spine Physicians Savannah, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Anthem Companies, Inc. and Richard Andrews appeal the grant of spoliation sanctions issued against them, arguing that the trial court erred in finding spoliation in the first instance and in sanctioning them with an adverse jury instruction. The underlying suit arose when an Anthem employee allegedly found a bug in her lunch bought from a cafeteria vendor. The employee took pictures, sending copies via email to a building superintendent, and having the images printed at a local drug store. The vendor had been removed as a company cafeteria vendor. This news was posted by someone to Facebook, and the story grew virally. The manager for the vendor, Cheryl Willis, considered the statements in the emails from the superintendent to the company were libelous, asking her attorney to demand the company retract its statements. Wills claimed that, as a result of the wide distribution of the email, the business closed, she and her then-husband filed for bankruptcy, and they lost their home, cars, and savings. Between the time of the original email and the time of trial in 2017, the printed versions of the images were lost. Wills asserted she did not know that the lost drug store prints existed until depositions were scheduled in early 2017. The Georgia Supreme Court determined that under the circumstances of this case, the trial court abused its discretion in awarding spoliation sanctions, and reversed the spoliation sanction. View "The Anthem Companies, Inc. v. Willis" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted writs of certiorari in two cases involving the liquidation of an insurance company to review the Court of Appeals’ decision in State of Georgia v. International Indemnity Company, 809 SE2d 64 (2017). The dispositive issue presented was whether the official immunity provision in OCGA 33-37-8.1 applied to claims for a “surcharge” and attorney fees against the State Insurance Commissioner and two other state employees, all in their official capacities as the liquidator and his deputies, and against a private company involved in the liquidation. The Court determined the Court of Appeals incorrectly concluded that section 33-37-8.1 would be applicable to these parties, and reversed that part of the Court of Appeals’ judgment allowing the claims to proceed against the state officer and employees in their official capacities. The Court affirmed in all other respects, meaning the case could proceed against the private company. View "Georgia v. International Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant Maxim Cabaret, Inc. d/b/a Maxim Cabaret was a strip club in Sandy Springs, Georgia, and appellant Theo Lambros was the club’s operator, sole shareholder, and president (collectively “Maxim”). Maxim appealed the superior court's order granting summary judgment to the City of Sandy Springs on Maxim’s legal challenges to city ordinances. The Georgia Supreme Court held that Maxim’s challenges to prior versions of the City’s ordinances that have since been replaced or amended were moot; current adult business ordinances prohibiting the sale of alcohol at businesses that offer live nude entertainment constitutionally regulate negative secondary effects of strip clubs without unduly inhibiting free speech or expression; and because the City may constitutionally prohibit Maxim from obtaining a license to sell liquor on its premises under the City’s adult business licensing ordinances, Maxim lacked standing to challenge the City’s alcohol licensing regulations. View "Maxim Cabaret v. City of Sandy Springs" on Justia Law

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Appellant Maxim Cabaret, Inc. d/b/a Maxim Cabaret was a strip club in Sandy Springs, Georgia, and appellant Theo Lambros was the club’s operator, sole shareholder, and president (collectively “Maxim”). Maxim appealed the superior court's order granting summary judgment to the City of Sandy Springs on Maxim’s legal challenges to city ordinances. The Georgia Supreme Court held that Maxim’s challenges to prior versions of the City’s ordinances that have since been replaced or amended were moot; current adult business ordinances prohibiting the sale of alcohol at businesses that offer live nude entertainment constitutionally regulate negative secondary effects of strip clubs without unduly inhibiting free speech or expression; and because the City may constitutionally prohibit Maxim from obtaining a license to sell liquor on its premises under the City’s adult business licensing ordinances, Maxim lacked standing to challenge the City’s alcohol licensing regulations. View "Maxim Cabaret v. City of Sandy Springs" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme COurt's review centered on whether the contract involved in this case between the City of Atlanta and a private business for the lease of retail concession space at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport created a taxable interest subject to ad valorem taxation by Clayton County. The City of Atlanta owned the Airport, which was partially in Clayton County outside the City’s boundaries. Appellee Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture entered into the written agreement with the City to lease space on two different concourses at the Airport for the non-exclusive rights to operate two duty free retail stores. Appellant Clayton County Board of Tax Assessors (“County”) issued real property tax assessments to Aldeasa for the 2011 and 2012 tax years on Aldeasa’s purported leasehold improvements on the two parcels involved in the Concessions Agreement and also on Aldeasa’s purported possessory interest in the two parcels. Aldeasa appealed the assessments and paid the tax pending the outcome of the appeal. The trial court found the Concessions Agreement created a usufruct interest in the property, and not an estate in real property; it rejected the County’s assertion that it was legally authorized to impose a property tax on usufructs located at the Airport; and it also rejected the County’s assertion that the Concessions Agreement created a taxable franchise. Accordingly, the trial court granted Aldeasa’s motion for summary judgement and denied the motion filed by the County. The County appealed, asserting four different taxable interests were created by the Concessions Agreement. The Supreme Court disagreed with the State's assertions and affirmed the trial court. View "Clayton County Bd. of Assessors v. Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme COurt's review centered on whether the contract involved in this case between the City of Atlanta and a private business for the lease of retail concession space at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport created a taxable interest subject to ad valorem taxation by Clayton County. The City of Atlanta owned the Airport, which was partially in Clayton County outside the City’s boundaries. Appellee Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture entered into the written agreement with the City to lease space on two different concourses at the Airport for the non-exclusive rights to operate two duty free retail stores. Appellant Clayton County Board of Tax Assessors (“County”) issued real property tax assessments to Aldeasa for the 2011 and 2012 tax years on Aldeasa’s purported leasehold improvements on the two parcels involved in the Concessions Agreement and also on Aldeasa’s purported possessory interest in the two parcels. Aldeasa appealed the assessments and paid the tax pending the outcome of the appeal. The trial court found the Concessions Agreement created a usufruct interest in the property, and not an estate in real property; it rejected the County’s assertion that it was legally authorized to impose a property tax on usufructs located at the Airport; and it also rejected the County’s assertion that the Concessions Agreement created a taxable franchise. Accordingly, the trial court granted Aldeasa’s motion for summary judgement and denied the motion filed by the County. The County appealed, asserting four different taxable interests were created by the Concessions Agreement. The Supreme Court disagreed with the State's assertions and affirmed the trial court. View "Clayton County Bd. of Assessors v. Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture" on Justia Law

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Following the Court of Appeals’ decision in RL BB ACQ I-GA CVL, LLC v. Workman, 798 SE2d 677 (2017), the Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider two questions: (1) whether attorney fees and costs are available under OCGA 9-15-14 for conduct that occurs during the course of post-judgment discovery; and (2) whether an entity is barred from seeking sanctions under OCGA 9-11-37 by failing to request sanctions at the time it sought and obtained a protective order under OCGA 9-11-26. The Court of Appeals reversed that portion of the order awarding fees pursuant to OCGA 9-15-14, concluding that the statute spoke only to conduct occurring during the course of a “lawsuit,” which concludes at judgment, and, thus, did not apply to post-judgment discovery proceedings. The appellate court also noted, without discussion, that OCGA 9-15-14 did not apply to non-parties. With respect to the fee award made pursuant to OCGA 9-11-37(a)(4)(A), the Court of Appeals questioned whether Appellants’ “failure to request their expenses at the time they sought the protective order barred them from seeking those expenses by way of a separate motion, filed more than 40 days after the protective order was entered,” and remanded the case to the trial court to consider the waiver issue. The Supreme Court answered the first question in the affirmative, the second in the negative, and, in so doing, affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Workman et al. v. RL BB ACQ I-GA CVL, LLC et al." on Justia Law