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Summaries of Opinions Released in Civil Cases – November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009

This morning, the Supreme Court released opinions in two civil cases:

S09A1187. City of Sandy Springs v. Kaplan et al.

The Supreme Court unanimously granted an interlocutory appeal regarding the proper application of the summary judgment standard to these cases. At issue is a dispute over a drainage pipe, which the trial court found the city had impliedly agreed to maintain. Fulton County had cleaned out the pipe several times, but had never accepted responsibility for the pipe’s maintenance. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county, but denied the City of Sandy Springs’ similar request. The City appealed the denial of its motion for summary judgment, and the Kaplans appealed the trial court order releasing the county from any liability.

The Court requested the parties focus on this issue in their briefs:

  1. Was it error for the trial court’s order on the City of Sandy Springs motion for summary judgment to state that the Court finds that Sandy Springs has impliedly accepted liability for maintenance of the pipe at issue. See OCGA § 9-11-56 (c)?

The Court heard oral argument in this case on October 6.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded for further consideration.  Writing for the Court, Justice Thompson found the trial court’s ruling only denied the City’s motion for summary judgment, without granting the Kaplans’ motion for partial summary judgment.  The Court affirmed the denial of summary judgment to the city, while remanding for clarification of the order.

S09A1370. Lawrence v. Lawrence

This case concerns the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement, and bears many similarities to the case Sullivan v. Sullivan, decided by the Court in September. After being asked by the future husband for a prenuptial agreement, the wife declined an opportunity to have an attorney review the agreement. The agreement was signed by a notary public, but not two witnesses. After the divorce, the husband sought to enforce the agreement, and the trial court found the agreement was enforceable. The wife argues the agreement was made in contemplation of marriage and thus requires two witnesses to be enforceable, while the husband argues the agreement was made in contemplation of divorce and only having one signature does not affect its enforceability. In Sullivan, the Court unanimously found a similar agreement was unenforceable because it was made in contemplation of marriage.

In a 5-2 opinion, the Court found that the prenuptial agreement was enforceable in this case.  Justice Nahmias, writing for the majority, found that because the prenuptial agreement mentioned alimony and specifically mentioned divorce, it was an agreement made in contemplation of marriage and thus is governed by the general rules of contract enforcement and does not require the two witnesses that are required for contracts made in contemplation of marriage.  The majority further found that, although a financial disclosure was not attached to the agreement, the trial court could have found that the wife was aware of the husband’s assets and financial condition and therefore did not abuse its discretion.

Chief Justice Hunstein and Judge Amanda F. Williams (sitting by designation for Justice Thompson, who did not participate) found that there had not been adequate disclosure of the husband’s financial status, rendering the agreement unenforceable.


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