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Forthcoming Opinions

January 21, 2011

The Supreme Court will release opinions in 12 cases on Monday, two of which are civil.  A brief summary of the issues in each case is below and we will update on Monday morning with links to the released opinions.

S10G0877. Rosenberg v. Falling Water, Inc.

This case resulted from a collapsed deck in Cobb County.  Rosenberg had purchased the house after it was constructed in 1994.  In August 2005, the deck collapsed and Rosenberg sued the builder for negligent construction and fraud.  The builder argued that the eight-year statute on claims arising from deficient construction applied.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the builder based on the statute of repose, implicitly ruling that even if the builder committed fraud in 1994, that fraud did not estop the builder from relying on the statute of repose 11 years later.

The Court of Appeals (Ellington, Johnson, Mikell) unanimously affirmed the trial court’s ruling, finding that a statute of repose cannot be tolled and the doctrine of equitable estoppel did not apply.

On July 9, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 4-3 vote (Hunstein, Benham, and Hines, dissenting) to consider the following issue:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the defendant was not equitably estopped from relying on the statute of repose to defeat a construction defect claim.

Appellant Rosenberg argued in his brief that the Court of Appeals confused the legal principles of equitable estoppel and fraudulent concealment, allowing “wrongdoers” to profit from their conduct.  In response, Appellee Falling Water argued that the claims were barred by the statute of repose and could not be revived by equitable estoppel.  Rosenberg filed a reply brief to reiterate his position.  The Georgia Trial Lawyers’ Association filed an amicus brief in support of Appellant and in support of the position that equitable estoppel should be allowed against a statute of repose.

The Court heard argument on October 13, 2010.

S10G1142. MCG Health, Inc. v. Owners Insurance Company

This case originated from a car accident.  Braxton Morgan was injured in an accident by an insured of Owners Insurance Company.  He received treatment by MCG Health, Inc.  Morgan was an active duty soldier at the time of his injury, but MCG Health did not bill TRICARE for Morgan’s medical treatment, but instead filed a hospital lien against Morgan.  Morgan then settled with Owners, and MCG Health instituted an action against Owners to collect the lien, and Owners filed a third-party claim against Morgan.  Morgan moved to dismiss the claim and the trial court treated the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment and granted Morgan’s motion to dismiss the complaint.

The Court of Appeals (Doyle, Blackburn, Adams) unanimously affirmed the trial court’s ruling, finding that the right to file a hospital lien under OCGA 44-14-740 attaches not to the individual, but to the causes of action the individual might have.  The Court of Appeals also found that MCG Health was correct that the TRICARE contract was binding, but that the lien was still invalid because there was no underlying debt.  The court noted that the issue of whether an underlying debt was required to make a hospital lien valid was previously undecided, and applied the rules of statutory interpretation to arrive at its conclusion.

On July 12, 2010, the Supreme Court unanimously granted certiorari to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals correctly interpret OCGA Section 44-14-470 to require an underlying debt that is the obligation of the patient?

Appellant argues in its brief that the lien should be enforceable, and that there is no requirement that the debt be owed by the patient before enforcing the lien.  The Georgia Hospital Association filed an amicus brief in support of Appellant.  Appellees Braxton and Kylie Morgan argue in response that a hospital lien cannot preempt a contractual agreement between a hospital and an insurer establishing payment.  Owners Insurance Company joined the brief of the Morgans.  Appellant filed a reply brief reinforcing its position.

The Court heard argument on October 13, 2010.


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