Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Following the death of Ben Everson, his parents sued Brian Jordan, the emergency room physician who attended to Ben two days before his death. Jordan’s motion for summary judgment was denied by the trial court, and he appealed to the Court of Appeals. In Everson v. Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, 798 SE2d 667 (2017), the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of summary judgment. In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals held that an independent, intervening act breaks the chain of causation in a wrongful death case only to the extent that the independent, intervening act was “wrongful or negligent.” Because this holding was erroneous and was in conflict with longstanding precedent of the Georgia Supreme Court, the Supreme Court granted certiorari review and reversed that portion of “Everson.” View "Jordan v. Everson" on Justia Law

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In May 2007, the Medical Center Hospital Authority (“Hospital Authority”) filed an action against the Columbus Board of Tax Assessors and related parties (together, “the Tax Board”) in which it sought a declaration that its leasehold interest in a building located on real property owned by a private entity constituted public property exempt from ad valorem taxation under OCGA 48-5-41 (a) (1). The superior court granted summary judgment to the Hospital Authority, finding that the Hospital Authority’s leasehold interest qualified as “public property,” and was thus exempt from ad valorem property taxation. The Tax Board appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that two prior bond validation orders conclusively determined, for purposes of OCGA 48-5-41 (a) (1) (A), that the property at issue was “public property” exempt from ad valorem taxation. The Court held that these orders did not conclusively establish that the Hospital Authority’s leasehold interest was “public property” exempt from ad valorem taxes and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Columbus Board of Tax Assessors v. Medical Center Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Georgia Supreme Court in this case was whether an employer has to show the availability of suitable employment to justify suspension of workers’ compensation benefits after already establishing that an employee’s work-related aggravation to a preexisting condition has ceased to be the cause of the employee’s disability. The Court of Appeals held the answer was yes; the Supreme Court disagreed, finding the Court of Appeals erred in remanding this case for the ALJ court to determine if the employer demonstrated suitable employment for the injured employee. View "Ocmulgee EMC v. McDuffie" on Justia Law

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Women’s Surgical Center, LLC d/b/a Georgia Advanced Surgery Center for Women (the “Center”) planned to add a second operating room to its premises in order to create opportunities to form contracts with additional surgeons who could then use the Center in connection with their medical practices. However, any such change to the Center could only be legally accomplished if the Center sought and was granted a certificate of need (“CON”) by the Georgia Department of Community Health (the “Department”). Because the Center believed that it should not be subject to the CON requirements, it filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Department in an effort to have Georgia’s applicable CON law and the regulations authorizing it declared unconstitutional. The Department moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing, among other things, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the case because the Center failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing its lawsuit. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, then both the Center and the Department filed motions for summary judgment with regard to the Center’s constitutional claims. The trial court rejected all of the Center’s constitutional challenges and granted summary judgment to the Department. In Case No. S17A1317, the Center appealed that ruling, and in Case No. S17X1318, the Department appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in both cases. View "Womens Surgical Center, LLC v. Berry" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Association of Professional Process Servers and several of its members, private process servers, (collectively, “the Association”) filed this action seeking mandamus, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief against the sheriffs of Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Clayton, Forsyth, and Paulding Counties (collectively, “the Sheriffs”). In its petition, the Association alleged that the Sheriffs conspired to thwart the use of certified process servers statewide, and have wrongfully failed to consider members’ individual petitions to become certified process servers under OCGA 9-11-4.1, thus rendering the Code section null and of no effect. The Sheriffs responded that the Code section explicitly gave them the power to make a threshold decision whether to permit certified process servers to serve process in their counties. After discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Sheriffs and denied the Association’s motion, finding that under a plain reading of the Code section, the Association was not entitled to any of the relief sought. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court found the trial court should not have ruled on the merits of the Association’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Sheriffs in their official capacities, because those claims are barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the Court vacated that portion of the trial court’s order and remanded for dismissal. Because the trial court correctly granted summary judgment as to the Association’s other claims, the Supreme Court affirmed the remainder of the trial court’s order. View "Georgia Ass'n of Professional Servers v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC owned a lot on which it wanted to construct an automotive service facility. Kammerer applied for a site development permit. The lot was subject to a zoning condition under the Forsyth County Unified Development Code that certain “open space” on the lot remain undeveloped. The Director of the Forsyth County Department of Planning and Community Development concluded that the proposed construction would not comply with this condition, and so, he refused to issue a site development permit. Kammerer then asked the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to amend the zoning condition, but the Board declined to do so. At that point, Kammerer filed this lawsuit against the County, the Board, and the Director, alleging that the Director had misconstrued the “open space” condition, and if it actually meant what the Director said it meant, it was unconstitutional in several respects. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Kammerer appealed the dismissal of certain claims, and the defendants cross-appealed the refusal of the trial court to dismiss other claims. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the trial court properly dismissed a claim for attorney fees, but reversed in all other respects, finding the trial court misinterpreted the controlling caselaw that governed this case, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Forsyth County Bod. of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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In January 2014, after approximately three years of marriage, Appellant David Patton filed a complaint for divorce against Appellee Jocelyn Vanterpool, M.D. During the pendency of the divorce, the parties consented to Appellee undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, which would eventually utilize both donor ova and donor sperm. Appellee traveled to the Czech Republic for the IVF procedure. Four days after leaving, a final judgment and decree of divorce was entered in the divorce action. The divorce decree incorporated the parties’ settlement agreement, which reflected that, at the time of the agreement, the parties neither had nor were expecting children produced of the marriage. Approximately 29 weeks later, Appellee gave birth as a result of the IVF procedure. Appellee subsequently moved the superior court to set aside the decree of divorce, seeking to include the minor child in the divorce agreement; this motion was denied. Appellee thereafter instituted a paternity action against Appellant, alleging that he gave written, informed consent for IVF and that OCGA 19-7-21 created an irrebuttable presumption of paternity; Appellee also sought child support. In response, Appellant argued that he did not meaningfully consent to IVF and that, even if he did, OCGA 19-7-21 was unconstitutional. The trial court sided with Appellee, granting her summary judgment on the issue of paternity. In September 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court granted Appellant’s application for discretionary appeal to address whether that irrebuttable presumption applied to children conceived by means of IVF. The Supreme Court concluded that it did not and reversed the judgment of the superior court. View "Patton v. Vanterpool" on Justia Law

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Gregory and Adam Piccione (“the Picciones”), grandchildren of testator Virginia Arp (“Virginia”) and children of Donna Piccione (“Donna”), appealed the superior court’s denial of their motion for summary judgment in this action against their three uncles, Sam and Dwayne Arp, individually and in their capacities as executors of Virginia’s estate, and David Arp. The Picciones contended they had a combined one-fourth interest in the property that comprised Virginia’s estate and sued in superior court, asserting actions for conversion, fraud, and trespass regarding those property interests, and moved for summary judgement. The trial court denied their motion, concluding that Virginia’s use of the words “PER CAPITA” in the phrase: “I give, bequeath and devise unto my children, Sam Arp, Donna Piccione, David Arp and Dwayne Arp, all of the property that I may own at the time of my death, both real and personal, of every kind and description and wherever located, PER CAPITA” was a “limitation” under the anti-lapse statute, OCGA § 53-4-64 (a); the anti-lapse provisions of the statute therefore did not apply to the gifts to Virginia’s children; as Donna predeceased Virginia, the testamentary gift to Donna lapsed; and thus, the Picciones had no property interest upon which to base their claims. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Piccione v. Arp" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted discretionary appeal to Lori Provenzano (Wife) to consider whether the trial court erred in its ruling on the petition to modify alimony filed by Forrest Jones (Husband) pursuant to Georgia’s “live-in lover” law, OCGA 19-6-19 (b). The parties were divorced in 2014. Pursuant to the final decree, Husband was to pay Wife alimony of $3,000 per month for sixty months and one-third of any net bonuses or commissions earned by Husband through his employment during that period. In 2016, Husband filed a petition for modification of alimony pursuant to OCGA § 19-619 (b) on the ground that Wife had voluntarily cohabited with her boyfriend “since at least the second half of 2014.” The issue before the Georgia Supreme Court was whether the trial court erred in its conclusion that Wife voluntarily cohabitated with a third party in a meretricious relationship after she obtained a separate apartment from her boyfriend but allegedly maintained an intimate relationship with the boyfriend. Wife argued on appeal that the trial court misapplied the cohabitation requirement by allowing a prior cohabitation to form the basis for modifying future alimony obligations. The Supreme Court determined the record supported the trial court’s finding that Wife had voluntarily cohabited in “a meretricious relationship with a third party.” Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its ruling on Husband’s petition to modify alimony. View "Provenzano v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Al Neeley was convicted by jury of malice murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, all relating to the shooting death of Shelton Brooks. His amended motion for a new trial was denied, and he appealed, arguing the evidence presented against him at trial was insufficient to support his convictions, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error after a review of the trial court record, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Neely v. Georgia" on Justia Law