Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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This case stemmed from a dispute between homeowners James and Mary Hanham and Access Management Group L.P., the management agent for the St. Marlo Homeowner’s Association. In 2011, the Hanhams filed claims for trespass, nuisance, negligence, invasion of privacy and breach of contract against their neighbor Marie Berthe-Narchet (“Narchet”), her landscaper GreenMaster Landscaping Service, Inc., and Access Management in response to a landscaping project on Narchet’s property that resulted in flooding to the Hanhams’ property and restricted their view of the golf course. During a 2016 jury trial, Access Management moved for a directed verdict on the negligence and breach of contract claims; the trial court denied both motions. The jury subsequently found in favor of the Hanhams, and Access Management appealed to the Court of Appeals, alleging, among other things, that the trial court erred in denying its motion for a directed verdict as to the Hanhams’ breach of contract claim. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the jury’s judgment as to that claim. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the trial court’s denial of Access Management’s motion for a directed verdict as to the Hanhams’ breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals’ decision was in error, and reversed the judgment as it pertained to the breach of contract claim. The Court vacated the final division of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. View "Hanham v. Access Management Group, L.P." on Justia Law

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Morgan County, Georgia appealed a trial court’s order dismissing Christine May’s criminal citation for violating the County’s amended zoning ordinance by renting out her house near Lake Oconee for a week. The court concluded that the zoning ordinance in effect at the time May began renting her house for short periods was unconstitutionally vague as applied, meaning that her use of the house for such rentals was “grandfathered” and not subject to the amended ordinance’s explicit prohibition of short-term rentals for fewer than 30 days. May cross-appealed, but the Georgia Supreme Court did not address her claimed errors, because it affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of her citation. View "Morgan County v. May" 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 Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether a locked entry door to a homeowner’s residence provided sufficient notice to a would-be trespasser that he or she is forbidden from entering the premises. The Court of Appeals held that David Harper, a bail recovery agent, could not be found guilty of trespass under OCGA 16-7-21(b)(2) as a matter of law after he entered the residence of Tina McDaniel through a locked door from her backyard without McDaniel’s knowledge or permission to arrest Stephen Collier, a man whose criminal bond had been forfeited. Harper gained access to the residence by either reaching his hand through a doggy door attached to the larger locked door and unlocking it, or crawling through the doggy door to do so. Collier did not live at the house, and was there only to work on a vehicle. Harper was a stranger to McDaniel, as he had not been given any access to McDaniel’s home on any prior occasion and had no prior relationship with her. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because a finding of guilt under OCGA 16-7-21(b)(2) “requires proof that the accused entered [the premises in question] knowingly and without authority after having received express notice that the entry was forbidden,” and because “[t]he State failed to produce any evidence showing that Harper was given the required prior express notice not to enter McDaniel’s premises,” Harper could not be found guilty of criminal trespass under the statute. The Supreme Court concluded that the locked door to the residence provided reasonable and sufficiently explicit notice to Harper that entry into McDaniel’s residence was forbidden under the circumstances of this case, and as such, reversed. View "Georgia v. Harper" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether a locked entry door to a homeowner’s residence provided sufficient notice to a would-be trespasser that he or she is forbidden from entering the premises. The Court of Appeals held that David Harper, a bail recovery agent, could not be found guilty of trespass under OCGA 16-7-21(b)(2) as a matter of law after he entered the residence of Tina McDaniel through a locked door from her backyard without McDaniel’s knowledge or permission to arrest Stephen Collier, a man whose criminal bond had been forfeited. Harper gained access to the residence by either reaching his hand through a doggy door attached to the larger locked door and unlocking it, or crawling through the doggy door to do so. Collier did not live at the house, and was there only to work on a vehicle. Harper was a stranger to McDaniel, as he had not been given any access to McDaniel’s home on any prior occasion and had no prior relationship with her. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because a finding of guilt under OCGA 16-7-21(b)(2) “requires proof that the accused entered [the premises in question] knowingly and without authority after having received express notice that the entry was forbidden,” and because “[t]he State failed to produce any evidence showing that Harper was given the required prior express notice not to enter McDaniel’s premises,” Harper could not be found guilty of criminal trespass under the statute. The Supreme Court concluded that the locked door to the residence provided reasonable and sufficiently explicit notice to Harper that entry into McDaniel’s residence was forbidden under the circumstances of this case, and as such, reversed. View "Georgia v. Harper" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court’s review centered on the proper statutory interpretation of the Recreational Property Act, OCGA 51-3-20 et seq. (RPA), which shields from potential liability landowners who “either directly or indirectly invite[] or permit[] without charge any person to use the[ir] property for recreational purposes.” Willie and Kristy Harris, along with their six-year-old daughter, Riley, attended a youth football game in 2012 at the Garden City Stadium, a facility owned and maintained by the City of Garden City. Willie and Kristy each paid the required $2 admission fee for spectators over the age of six. However, because Riley was only six years old, the Harrises were not required to pay an entrance fee for her, and Riley was admitted to the event free of charge. At one point during the game, while Riley was walking across the bleachers to return to her seat after visiting the concession stand, she slipped and fell between the bench seats and suffered serious injuries after falling to the ground nearly thirty feet below. The Harrises sued the City to recover for Riley’s injuries, and the City moved for summary judgment, relying on the immunity provided by the RPA. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a landowner would not be shielded from potential liability by the RPA where that landowner charged a fee to some people who used the landowner’s property for recreational purposes, but did not charge any fee to the injured party who used the property for such purposes. The Court determined that because the plain language of the RPA shielded a landowner from potential liability under the circumstances presented here, the Court of Appeals erred in concluding otherwise. View "Mayor & Alderman of Garden City v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court’s review centered on the proper statutory interpretation of the Recreational Property Act, OCGA 51-3-20 et seq. (RPA), which shields from potential liability landowners who “either directly or indirectly invite[] or permit[] without charge any person to use the[ir] property for recreational purposes.” Willie and Kristy Harris, along with their six-year-old daughter, Riley, attended a youth football game in 2012 at the Garden City Stadium, a facility owned and maintained by the City of Garden City. Willie and Kristy each paid the required $2 admission fee for spectators over the age of six. However, because Riley was only six years old, the Harrises were not required to pay an entrance fee for her, and Riley was admitted to the event free of charge. At one point during the game, while Riley was walking across the bleachers to return to her seat after visiting the concession stand, she slipped and fell between the bench seats and suffered serious injuries after falling to the ground nearly thirty feet below. The Harrises sued the City to recover for Riley’s injuries, and the City moved for summary judgment, relying on the immunity provided by the RPA. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a landowner would not be shielded from potential liability by the RPA where that landowner charged a fee to some people who used the landowner’s property for recreational purposes, but did not charge any fee to the injured party who used the property for such purposes. The Court determined that because the plain language of the RPA shielded a landowner from potential liability under the circumstances presented here, the Court of Appeals erred in concluding otherwise. View "Mayor & Alderman of Garden City v. Harris" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Georgia Trust Bank secured a judgment against Virgil Lovell for $1.2 million. The next year, Georgia Trust failed, and its assets went into receivership with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which later sold the judgment to Community & Southern Bank. When CSB was unable to collect the full amount of the judgment, it discovered a number of recent transactions in which Lovell and his companies had conveyed their respective interests in properties that, CSB believed, otherwise would have been available to satisfy the judgment. In 2015, CSB filed a lawsuit against Lovell, his wife, and several of his companies, asserting claims under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act (UFTA) to set aside those conveyances as fraudulent transfers. The trial court dismissed some of those claims on the ground that they did not state claims upon which relief might properly be granted. After reviewing the transfers, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court found that trial court erred when it dismissed a claim under the UFTA against Lovell, his wife, and Ankony Land, LLC, relating to property in Habersham County: the trial court rested its dismissal of the claim upon the time bar of former OCGA 18-2-79 (1), and did not consider the other grounds asserted by Lovell, his wife, and Ankony Land for dismissing the claim. The trial court reasoned that former Section 18-2-79 (1) was a statute of repose, not a statute of limitation, and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) did not, it concluded, preempt statutes of repose. CSB contended that this conclusion was in error, and with that contention, the Supreme Court agreed. The Court reversed the trial court on this point, affirmed in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Community & Southern Bank v. Lovell" on Justia Law

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Thomas McBee and his wife Mary (the “McBees”) and Aspire at West Midtown Apartments, L.P. (“Aspire”) were adjoining landowners. The McBees claimed title by prescription to a rectangular strip of land measuring about 24 feet by 58 feet located on a lot to which Aspire held record title. Aspire used this lot and several adjoining properties it owned to develop an apartment complex, thereby depriving the McBees of the use of it. The McBees sued Aspire, and the trial court granted Aspire’s motion for summary judgment on the McBees’ adverse possession claim. Two appeals followed. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court: (1) summarily affirmed the trial court’s order denying Aspire’s motion to dismiss the McBees’ appeal for delay in filing the record appendix; and (2) found that the trial court record did not reflect evidence conclusively rebutting the presumption that the McBee’s had a good faith claim of right to the disputed area. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the order granting summary judgment to Aspire on the McBees’ adverse possession claim, and remanded the case for the trial court to consider Aspire’s other arguments for summary judgment. View "McBee v. Aspire at West Midtown Apartments, L.P." 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