Justia Georgia Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Construction Law
Massey et al. v. Duke Builders, Inc.
Property owners and the contractors they hired to build a house had a dispute. The Georgia Supreme Court granted the owners' request for review to consider: (1) whether anticipated profits could be included in a materialmen’s lien; and (2) if so, whether the improper inclusion of such profits rendered the entire lien void. Because the Court of Appeals correctly held that anticipated profits could not be included in a lien and that their inclusion does not invalidate the entire lien, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Massey et al. v. Duke Builders, Inc." on Justia Law
Wallace v. Georgia
Antonio Wallace was tried by a jury and convicted of the murder of Leroy O’Hara. Wallace appealed, claiming: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for new trial on the general grounds; and (3) that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The Georgia Supreme Court found no merit in these claims, and affirmed. View "Wallace v. Georgia" on Justia Law
Hood v. Georgia
Diara Hood was convicted by jury of the felony murder of Steven Carden, the aggravated assault of Thomas Smith, and other related crimes. Following the trial court’s denial of her motion for new trial, Hood appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting other-acts evidence and by charging the jury on that evidence. Although the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the trial court committed two merger errors at sentencing, it otherwise affirmed her convictions. View "Hood v. Georgia" on Justia Law
Carter v. Georgia
Brandon Carter was convicted by jury of malice murder and two firearm offenses in connection with the shooting death of Terrance Baker. On appeal, Carter contended the trial court erred by admitting certain hearsay statements into evidence and by violating his constitutional right to be present during his trial. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed conviction. View "Carter v. Georgia" on Justia Law
Thomaston Acquisition, LLC v. Piedmont Construction Group, Inc.
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
Veterans Parkway Developers, LLC v. RMW Development Fund II, LLC
Defendant Veterans Parkway Developers, LLC (“VPD”) appealed a Superior Court order granting injunctive relief and requiring an accounting in this suit by RMW Development Fund, II, LLC (“RMW”) stemming from VPD’s management of Veterans Parkway Apartments, LLC (the “Company”). The order at issue granted RMW an interlocutory injunction: (1) enjoining VPD from using funds in its possession or control to construct a second entrance to an apartment complex in Columbus (the “Property”), constructed and managed by the Company; (2) prohibiting VPD from using funds for any purpose other than the normal day-to-day expenses of the Property; and (3) requiring VPD to submit a monthly report of its expenses to the superior court, with copies to counsel for the parties. RMW filed suit against VPD alleging VPD’s breach of contract by its entering into an unauthorized management agreement and thereby paying an unauthorized management fee, and a claim for “promissory estoppel,” stemming from VPD’s alleged failure to use some of the Company’s funds for partial repayment of a development loan; RMW asked for VPD’s removal as manager of the Company and for the costs of litigation. Prior to the filing on the complaint, the Company had purchased a 60-foot strip of land for the purpose of creating a second entrance to the Property. At a hearing on the injunction, RMW argued that it could not undo any construction of the second entrance to the Property. VPD countered that RMW was, in reality, concerned about money being spent on the construction of the second entrance instead of being used to repay the loans made by RMW, and that any appropriate redress was monetary damages. Ultimately the injunction was granted and VPD appealed. The Supreme Court found after review of this matter that the trial court's injunction was not supported by the record, and that court abused its discretion in granting the injunction. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Veterans Parkway Developers, LLC v. RMW Development Fund II, LLC" on Justia Law
Georgia Dept. of Corrections v. Developers Surety & Indemnity Co.
The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) entered into a construction contract with Lewis Walker Roofing (Walker Roofing) to re-roof several buildings at Valdosta State Prison. The Contract contained two “no assignment” clauses, and as a prerequisite to contracting with GDOC, Walker Roofing was required to obtain payment and performance bonds. It obtained such payment and performance bonds from Developers Surety and Indemnity Company. Walker Roofing did not complete its work within the time frame required by the Contract, and GDOC declared Walker Roofing in default. Developers Surety did not notify GDOC within 25 days of receipt of GDOC's notice of default regarding whether it would remedy the default or perform the contract. However, approximately three months after the declaration of default, Developers Surety gave GDOC the option of entering into a contract with another company for the completion of the work. GDOC then contracted with that company to finish the project. Under the payment and performance bonds and prior to Walker Roofing's default, Developers Surety had provided financial assistance to Walker Roofing. Developers Surety filed suit against GDOC for breach of contract and for a declaratory judgment that it had no obligation under the payment and performance bond it issued to Walker Roofing on behalf of GDOC. GDOC filed a counterclaim for breach of contract. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court determined that Developers Surety's claims were not barred by sovereign immunity and that GDOC had breached the construction contract as a matter of law. It concluded that GDOC waived its sovereign immunity by entering into the contract with Walker Roofing, and that the doctrine of equitable subrogation gave Developers Surety the ability to file suit against GDOC once it incurred liability and paid the obligations of its principal under the bond. Consequently, the trial court granted summary judgment to Developers Surety and denied it to GDOC; in the same order, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Developers Surety in the amount equal to the "financial assistance" Developers Surety provided to Walker Roofing. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals to consider whether the State’s sovereign immunity was waived for the claim Developers Surety made on its contract with the State. The Supreme Court found that immunity was indeed waived in this instance, and accordingly, it affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "Georgia Dept. of Corrections v. Developers Surety & Indemnity Co." on Justia Law
St. Simons Waterfront, LLC v. Hunter, Maclean, Exely & Dunn, P.C.
Appellant St. Simon's Waterfront, LLC ("SSW") sued its former law firm, Appellee Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P.C. ("Hunter Maclean"), over the firm's representation in a commercial real estate venture. During the litigation, SSW sought production of communications between Hunter Maclean attorneys and the firm's in-house general counsel, which took place during the firm's ongoing representation of SSW, in anticipation of potential malpractice claims by SSW. Hunter Maclean asserted that the materials were protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine, but the trial court disagreed and ordered their production. On appeal, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's order and remanded for further consideration. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the same basic analysis that is conducted to assess privilege and work product in every other variation of the attorney-client relationship should also be applied to the law firm in-house counsel situation. The Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "St. Simons Waterfront, LLC v. Hunter, Maclean, Exely & Dunn, P.C." on Justia Law
Mestellar v. Gwinnett County
Robert Mesteller brought suit to challenge Gwinnett County and its Board of Commissioners' (County) Solid Waste Ordinance. He appealed a superior court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County. Relying upon the Home Rule provision of the Georgia Constitution (among others), the County adopted the Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance of 2010. Under the Ordinance, the County was divided into five zones, each to be serviced by a private waste management company. The County collected fees for the waste collection services through annual tax assessment notices, which it then remits to the five service providers, minus the service fee. Mesteller received a property tax bill that showed a fee for solid waste collection services. Acting pro se, he sued the County and the members of its Board of Commissioners, individually and as members of the Board, alleging the assessment and collection of the fee violated the Georgia Constitution. After notice and a hearing, the superior court granted the County's motion for summary judgment. Mesteller contended on appeal that the County was without authority to use the annual property tax bill to assess or collect fees for solid waste services because by contracting with private waste management companies to collect solid waste, the County was not, in fact, "provid[ing] solid waste collection services" within the meaning of OCGA 12-8-39.3 (a), and therefore not authorized to place the collection fee on the tax bill of a property owner or to enforce the collection of the fee as set forth in the statute. The Supreme Court concluded that Mestellar's argument "reveal[ed] a misunderstanding of the precedents of [the] Court." As such, the Court affirmed the superior court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County. View "Mestellar v. Gwinnett County" on Justia Law
Mayor & Alderman of the City of Savannah v. Batson-Cook Co., et al.
This case arose out of a contractual dispute between the city and its contractor and sub-contractor concerning the design and construction of an underground parking garage. At issue was whether the city's petition for a writ of certiorari to the court of appeals to decide whether that court erred when it determined the trial judge did not err when, having been presented with a motion to recuse him, he denied the motion rather than referred it to another judge. The court held that, since the affidavits at issue raised a reasonable question about the trial judge's impartiality that required the assignment of the motion to recuse to another judge, the court of appeals erred when it affirmed the trial judge's denial of the motion to recuse for failure to meet the requirement of USCR 23.5. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Mayor & Alderman of the City of Savannah v. Batson-Cook Co., et al." on Justia Law