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Next Week at the Court – November 16, 2009

November 13, 2009

The Court only has one day of argument schedule next week, held at a special sitting outside Atlanta, in Dahlonega.  The Court will hear argument in one death penalty case and one civil case:

S10Q0041. Stamps v. JFB Properties, LLC et al.

This case comes to the Court as a certified question from the Northern District of Georgia.  The dispute stems from the proceeds of a $700,000 life insurance policy insuring the life of Stamps’ deceased husband.  Five months before he died, the Stamps signed a document, agreeing to sell the policy for $350,000 to JFB Properties, LLC.  After the death of the husband, Stamps disputed JFB’s ownership of the policy, claiming that policy was collateral for a $350,000 loan.  Following a jury trial, the court entered judgment for stamps based on her claim that “the agreement for sale of the insurance policy was void because it was induced by fraud.”  JFB and another defendant subsequently filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law.

In the order on the motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court found that Stamps could prevail only if she proved the existence of a confidential relationship between Prater (another defendant) and the Stamps.  But Georgia law both in statute and cases define a “confidential relationship” in a conclusory manner without clear direction.  The court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Georgia:

Does Georgia law support the finding of a confidential relationship between Prater and Stamps, such that Prater owed a fiduciary obligation to Stamps where:

(1) Prater and Stamps were close friends and business associates ;

(2) Stamps was a practicing attorney and had represented Prater in the past ;

(3) Stamps asked for Prayer’s help in meeting his financial obligations while he recovered from leukemia and, in connection with this request, provided detailed information to Prater about his finances and about the life insurance policy at issue in this case;

(4) Prater promised and voluntarily undertook to help Stamps, personally loaned Stamps $50,000 in exchange for an unsecured promissory note, and later agreed to loan Stamps $300,000 more, with the term $700,000 life insurance policy to be used as collateral for the $350,000 loan ; and

(5) Prater informed Stamps that he would have his attorney draft a loan agreement whereby the life insurance policy would be used as collateral for a $350,000 loan?

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