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New Petitions for Certiorari Granted

November 29, 2010

We trust all our readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  No new opinions were released this morning due to the holidays, but the Supreme Court has granted several petitions for certiorari in civil cases in the last few weeks.  Details on the three new civil cases are below.

S10G1343, S10G1345. DWIGHT BROWN et al. v. EDGAR “BO” POUNDS et al.

This case originated with challenges to the management structure of Cobb Electric Membership Corporation.  After litigation against the Board of Directors of Cobb EMC, the parties reached a proposed Settlement Agreement that included a provision regarding a meeting of shareholders with a vote.  After the Agreement was made a final judgment by the trial court, the Cobb EMC Board voted to change its bylaws and instituted proxy voting, among other changes.  The plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to enforce the settlement, and the trial court found that many of the amendments adopted by the Board were valid.  The plaintiffs appealed.

The Court of Appeals (Johnson, Barnes, Phipps) unanimously affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that the Settlement Agreement was a contract to be enforced.  The Court of Appeals panel found the amendment related to proxy voting was contrary to the terms of the Agreement, but also found that the other bylaw amendments relating to the business that could be conducted at member meetings were outside the bounds of the Agreement.  The panel further found that the distribution of Cobb EMC’s own proposed resolutions violated the Agreement.

Cobb EMC filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing that the Court of Appeals failed to defer to the trial court’s interpretation of the Settlement Agreement. Cobb EMC was joined by an amicus brief in support of its application from an Emory Law Professor.  Plaintiffs responded in opposition to the petition, arguing that there is no issue of great concern or gravity in the legal interpretation of the Agreement.  Cobb EMC filed a reply brief in support of its petition.

On November 1, 2010, the Supreme Court unanimously granted the petition for certiorari (without Justices Hines and Nahmias) to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the amendment to Cobb EMC’s bylaws, allowing for voting by proxy, violated the settlement agreement previously entred into by the parties?
The Court will hear oral argument on the case in February 2011.

S10G1471. BROWN INVESTMENT GROUP, LLC v. CITY OF SAVANNAH et al.

This case originated with the demolition of a building.  Brown Investment Group purchased a building at a tax sale, but the city subsequently determined the building was unsafe and demolished it prior to the expiration of the right of redemption.  Brown sued the City, claiming the value of the building, saying the building had been illegally demolished.  The trial court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, stating that Brown did not have standing because it did not hold legal title to the property at the time of demolition.  Brown appealed.

The Court of Appeals (Andrews, Ellington, Doyle) unanimously affirmed the trial court, finding that Brown was not the legal owner because the tax deed did not convey legal title, but rather a defeasible title that could be redeemed within a year.

Brown filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing that the Court of Appeals decision has massive implications by finding a tax sale purchase does not have enough rights to protect its interest in property.  The City responded, arguing that the interest was subject to the right of redemption until 12 months after the sale, and that the petition for certiorari should be denied.

On November 1, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 5-2 vote (Hunstein and Benham dissenting) to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err by finding that Brown Investment Group, LLC lacked standing to sue the City of Savannah for trespass?
The Court will hear oral argument on the case in February 2011.

S10G1652. ELIAS FLORES et al. v. EXPREZIT! STORES 98-GEORGIA, LLC., et al.

This case originated with an automobile accident that left six people dead.  The driver who caused the accident, Billy Joe Grundell, was legally intoxicated.  The Floreses brought suit seeking damages against an Exprezit! convenience store where Grundell allegedly purchased packaged beer prior to the accident under Georgia’s Dram Shop Act.  Exprezit! moved for summary judgment on the basis that the Dram Shop Act did not apply to it because it did not sell alcohol for consumption on the premises.

The Court of Appeals (Andrews, Ellington, Doyle) unanimously affirmed the trial court, finding that the Dram Shop Act did not apply.  It was not legal for Grundell to consume the alcohol at the convenience store or in the vehicle after he drove away, and the store did not know if he would drink, whether he would drink, or how much he would drink.  The panel found that the plain language of the statute demonstrates that there is no liability for locations that sell packaged alcohol under the Dram Shop Act.

The Floreses filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing that the decision by the Court of Appeals impermissibly exempted entities which sell alcohol from liability even if they know intoxicated adults will soon be driving.  The convenience store responded in opposition, arguing that the Court of Appeals decision properly construed the law.  The Georgia Trial Lawyers’ Association filed an amicus brief in support of the petition for certiorari.

On November 22, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 5-2 vote (Thompson and Hines dissenting) to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the Georgia Dram Shop Act does not apply to the sale by convenience stores of closed packaged containers of alcohol not intended for consumption on the premises?
Thet Court will hear oral argument on the case in March 2011.
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