Justia Georgia Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Mimbs v. Henry County Schools
The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether the trial court properly granted summary judgment against public school teacher Sheri Mimbs, on the basis that Mimbs failed to institute her whistleblower action within one year after discovering the alleged acts of retaliation. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded Mimbs’s complaint was timely with respect to one of the acts giving rise to her retaliation claim. Therefore, the Court reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the school district. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Mimbs v. Henry County Schools" on Justia Law
Brown, et al. v. Carson, et al.
The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether E. Howard Carson acquired a vested right to develop property in a particular manner based upon alleged assurances made to him by Tom Brown, the Forsyth County Planning Director. Carson was the principal for Red Bull Holdings II, LLC, the property owner in this case. In 2016, Carson met with Brown and discussed Carson’s plans to purchase approximately 17 acres of land and develop that property into 42 separate 9,000- square-foot residential lots. In his role as Planning Director, Brown was allowed to interpret the zoning code; however, he could not unilaterally promise or authorize the issuance of a building permit. The record further showed that Carson knew prior to that meeting that the zoning code allowed for 9,000-square-foot lots. During the meeting, Carson showed Brown a hand-drawn document depicting Carson’s proposed subdivision layout, and asked Brown to confirm whether the current zoning code allowed for his proposed development. Brown made no representations as to future zoning code changes that might impact the property, nor did he guarantee that Carson would be able to build as he proposed. Carson purchased the property and spent money obtaining the various plans and appraisals necessary to begin development. Then, in August 2016, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners “imposed a moratorium on the acceptance of applications for land disturbance permits” for 9,000 -square-foot residential lots. Based on the record before the Supreme Court, it concluded Carson did not acquire a vested right; therefore, the decision of the Court of Appeals holding to the contrary was reversed. The case was remanded with direction. View "Brown, et al. v. Carson, et al." on Justia Law
Maynard, et al. v. Snapchat, Inc.
While driving over 100 miles per hour, Christal McGee rear-ended a car driven by Wentworth Maynard, causing him to suffer severe injuries. When the collision occurred, McGee was using a “Speed Filter” feature within Snapchat, a mobile phone application, to record her real-life speed on a photo or video that she could then share with other Snapchat users. Wentworth and his wife, Karen Maynard, sued McGee and Snapchat, Inc. (“Snap”), alleging that Snap negligently designed Snapchat’s Speed Filter. The trial court dismissed the design-defect claim against Snap, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Snap did not owe a legal duty to the Maynards because a manufacturer’s duty to design reasonably safe products does not extend to people injured by a third party’s intentional and tortious misuse of the manufacturer’s product. On certiorari, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred: "a manufacturer has a duty under our decisional law to use reasonable care in selecting from alternative designs to reduce reasonably foreseeable risks of harm posed by its products. When a particular risk of harm from a product is not reasonably foreseeable, a manufacturer owes no design duty to reduce that risk. How a product was being used (e.g., intentionally, negligently, properly, improperly, or not at all) and who was using it (the plaintiff or a third party) when an injury occurred are relevant considerations in determining whether a manufacturer could reasonably foresee a particular risk of harm from its product. Nevertheless, our decisional law does not recognize a blanket exception to a manufacturer’s design duty in all cases of intentional or tortious third-party use." Because the holding of the Court of Appeals conflicted with these principles, and because the Maynards adequately alleged Snap could have reasonably foreseen the particular risk of harm from the Speed Filter at issue here, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maynard, et al. v. Snapchat, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Internet Law, Personal Injury, Products Liability
Junior v. Graham
The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether a plaintiff could receive a full recovery under OCGA 13-6-11 and OCGA 9-11-68(b)(2). Because the Court concluded the provisions provided for different recoveries despite using somewhat similar measures for calculating the respective amount of damages or sanction, a prevailing plaintiff could recover under each statutory provision without regard to any recovery under the other. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case with direction that the case be remanded to the trial court for reconsideration of the plaintiff’s claim for attorney fees and litigation expenses pursuant to OCGA 9-11-68(b)(2). View "Junior v. Graham" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Personal Injury
Doe v. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, et al.
In December 2018, Phillip Doe filed suit against Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and the Archdiocese of Atlanta (collectively, “the Church”), asserting various tort claims based in part on childhood sexual abuse Doe allegedly suffered while serving as an altar boy at Saint Joseph’s in the late 1970s. The trial court granted the Church’s motion to dismiss, ruling, in pertinent part, that Doe’s “non-nuisance tort claims” were barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitation, OCGA 9-3-33,2 and could not be tolled for fraud by OCGA 9-3-96. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Court of Appeals, finding that although the trial court correctly determined that Doe’s claim seeking to hold the Church vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior was time-barred, the court erred in concluding at the motion-to-dismiss stage that Doe could not introduce evidence of fraud within the framework of his complaint sufficient under OCGA 9-3-96 to toll the limitation period as to his claims of negligent training and supervision, negligent retention, negligent failure to warn and provide adequate security, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment. View "Doe v. St. Joseph's Catholic Church, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Personal Injury
Edible IP, LLC v. Google, LLC
This case involved Google LLC’s application of internet search algorithms, which it used to auction off search terms for profit to advertisers, and the interests of Edible IP, LLC, which sought to exercise control over the profit generated from its trade name and associated goodwill. In 2018, Edible IP brought an action against Google arising from Google’s monetization of the name “Edible Arrangements” without permission in its keyword advertising program. Google moved to dismiss the complaint, or in the alternative, to compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion, dismissing the complaint on several grounds, including that it failed to state a claim, and alternatively compelling the parties to arbitration. Edible IP appealed that order, and the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal for failure to state a claim. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the trial court properly granted Google’s motion to dismiss, and after review, affirmed, finding Edible IP did not state a cognizable claim for relief. View "Edible IP, LLC v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Internet Law
RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC et al. v. Allen, et al.
In February 2018, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated persons against Defendants RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC, Little Giant Farmers Market Corporation, Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., River City Capital, LLC, and River City Capital Property Management, LLC for negligence, premises liability, false imprisonment, conversion, and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). Plaintiff claimed that Defendants “hired, authorized, or otherwise provided material support to” third parties that immobilized vehicles located on Defendants’ property with boots or similar devices, and required the owners or operators of the vehicles to pay a fee in order to have the immobilizing devices removed. Plaintiff moved to certify the action on behalf of a proposed class of similarly situated persons, claiming that between February 2013 and 2018, at least 250 persons “have been booted and have paid a fine for removal of said device” at the Wesley Chapel Lot. Following briefing and oral argument, the trial court granted Plaintiff’s motion, certifying the class. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether there was a common-law right that permits private property owners to immobilize vehicles that were not authorized to be on their property. The Court concluded that the common-law rights the defendants alluded to in the courts below – namely, the right to remove trespassing vehicles and an alleged right to impound trespassing vehicles – did not apply to the defendants’ vehicle immobilization practice. However, because the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that “the trial court did not err in finding no common law right to immobilize a vehicle absent an enabling statute or ordinance,” and any reliance on that conclusion in affirming the trial court’s order granting Plaintiff Forrest Allen’s motion for class certification, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case with direction to remand to the trial court for reconsideration of the proposed class. View "RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC et al. v. Allen, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Class Action, Real Estate & Property Law
Rockdale County et al.. v. U. S. Enterprises, Inc.
This case arose from Rockdale County, Georgia's denial of an application for a permit to build a QuikTrip on property owned by William Corey and U.S. Enterprises, Inc. (the “Owners”), on the ground that the proposed facility was a “truck stop,” which was a prohibited use under the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (“UDO”). After the County’s Board of Adjustment affirmed the denial of the permit, the Owners filed a petition to the Rockdale County Superior Court seeking, among other things, certiorari under OCGA 5-4-1 et seq. The superior court sustained the petition for certiorari, rejecting the County’s argument that the Owners’ lawsuit was barred by res judicata and reversing the Board’s decision on the ground that the UDO’s applicable definition of a “truck stop” was unconstitutionally vague and therefore violated due process under the Georgia Constitution. The Georgia Supreme Court granted County’s application for a discretionary appeal, and the Owners then cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s rejection of the County’s res judicata argument, reversed the part of the superior court’s judgment ruling that the “truck stop” definition was unconstitutionally vague, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court's holding made it unnecessary to address the Owners’ cross-appeal, which was accordingly dismissed as moot. View "Rockdale County et al.. v. U. S. Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. v. Zeh
B. Reid Zeh filed a lawsuit alleging that the American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. (“ACLU”) had published a post on its blog containing defamatory statements asserting that Zeh, who was the public defender for misdemeanor cases in Glynn County, Georgia, had charged an indigent criminal defendant a fee for his public defense services. The ACLU moved to strike the defamation lawsuit pursuant to Georgia’s anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“anti-SLAPP”) statute. Zeh then filed two motions requesting discovery. The trial court denied the motion to strike without ruling on Zeh’s discovery motions, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the anti-SLAPP motion. The Georgia Supreme Court granted the ACLU's petition for certiorari to address what standard of judicial review applies in this situation and whether, under that standard, the trial court erred by denying the anti-SLAPP motion to strike. After applying the proper standard of review to the existing record, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by denying the ACLU’s motion to strike. The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision upholding that ruling. But because the trial court failed to rule on Zeh’s requests for discovery, the case was remanded to the Court of Appeals with direction that it remand the case to the trial court to rule on the discovery motions and for further proceedings. View "American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. v. Zeh" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Legal Ethics
Schmitz v. Barron et al.
Warren Schmitz contested the results of the November 3, 2020, election to fill the seat for Georgia House of Representatives District 52. The certified election results showed that 17,069 votes were cast for Shea Roberts, and 16,692 votes were cast for incumbent Deborah Silcox, thus making Roberts the winner by 377 votes. Claiming a variety of irregularities, Schmitz filed a timely petition in Fulton County Superior Court on November 25, 2020, to contest the results of the House District 52 election. On April 22, 2021, that petition was dismissed by the superior court based on its determination that Roberts had to be served with the notice of the election contest under OCGA 21-2-524 (f) and its finding that Schmitz failed to exercise diligence to see that Roberts was properly served. On appeal, Schmitz contended these determinations were erroneous and that the trial court lacked the authority to dismiss the case on this basis. However, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the superior court that OCGA 21-2-524 (f) required candidates to be served with notice of the election contest. "Moreover, because the findings of the superior court with respect to diligence are supported by the record and because dismissal of the election contest was within the superior court’s discretion, we affirm." View "Schmitz v. Barron et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Election Law, Government & Administrative Law