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Released Opinions

February 28, 2011

This morning, the Supreme Court released opinions in 22 cases, four of which are civil. A brief summary of each civil case is below, along with a summary of each opinion released.

S10G0619. Sapp et al. v. Canal Insurance Company

This case is a declaratory judgment action filed by an insurer to determine its liability under an insurance policy.  Canal Insurance Company issued an insurance policy to EDB Trucking with a specific provision that coverage was limited to a 50-mile radius around Tifton.  An EDB Trucking dump truck was involved in a wreck with Pamela Sapp outside of that radius.  Canal moved for summary judgment that it was not liable for damages from the accident because it occurred outside its limitation of use area.  The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that the insurance contract was clear and unambiguous.

The Court of Appeals (Johnson, Ellington, Mikell) unanimously affirmed the trial court’s ruling, finding that the language provided for the limitation, and the arguments that the motor carrier rules made the policy apply were not supported in this case.

On July 12, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 5-2 vote (Hines and Thompson, dissenting) to consider the following issues:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that an insurance policy is not subject to the Motor Carrier Act if the policyholder fails to file for a permit under the Act and the policy does not contain a Form F endorsement, without regard to whether both parties knew, or should have known, that the policy should have been issued as a motor carrier policy subject to the Act?
  2. Did the Court of Appeals err in relying on the absence of a transcript of the hearing on the motion for summary judgment to assume that the trial court had an adequate evidentiary basis for its findings?.
  3. Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the 50-mile radius-of-use limitation in the automobile insurance policy was valid as not in violation of public policy?

The Court heard oral argument on the case on October 18, 2010.

On February 28, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Hunstein explained that the Motor Carrier Act applies in this case and for that reason, the 50-mile radius-of-use limitation is invalid.

S10A1436. PITTMAN v. STATE OF GEORGIA, EX REL., et al.

This case involves the issuance of an injunction by the Toombs County Superior Court seizing money and gaming machines under allegations that a convenience store was operating as an illegal gaming establishment. The trial court granted the temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction.

Pittman filed his principal brief and the State of Georgia responded.

The Court is deciding this case without oral argument.

On February 28, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the trial court ruling.  Writing for the Court, Justice Nahmias explained that the trial court has broad discretion to enter interlocutory injunctions and no abuse of that discretion existed in this case. Chief Justice Hunstein concurred to note that no constitutional “civil” in personam RICO proceedings can take place until corrects are made to the statute by the legislature.

S10A1598. Waller et al. v. Golden et al.

This case involves the construction of a swimming pool in a gated community.  The Goldens received approval from their homeowners’ association to construct a pool, but when the construction began, the pool could be seen from the road, and several neighbors opposed it as a violation of the subdivision’s covenants.  The neighbors sued and the trial court issued a temporary injunction stopping pool construction, but later lifted the injunction while still finding the pool violated the covenants.

The Supreme Court heard argument on this case on October 15, 2010.

On February 28, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Writing for the Court, Justice Melton explained the Court did not find the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to enter the injunction and finding the claims barred by laches.

S11A0346. SCARBOROUGH, CHAIRMAN et al. v. HUNTER et al.

This case involves the abandonment of a road in Stephens County.  The trial court granted a temporary restraining order, and also granted a Certificate of Immediate Review.  The Supreme Court unanimously granted the application for interlocutory review to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the trial court err by issuing a temporary restraining order preventing the Board of Commissioners from exercising its discretion regarding the abandonment of Winding Bluff Road. See OCGA §§ 32-7-2 (b) (1) and 50-13-19 (h).

Appellants in their principal brief argued that the temporary restraining order was improperly granted, and Appellees responded that the grant was appropriate.

The Court is deciding this case without oral argument.

On February 28, 2011, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the trial court’s decision. Writing for the Court, Justice Melton explained that it was not proper under the facts of this case for the trial court to intervene in the discretionary area granted to the Board of Commissioners.

Attorney Discipline

In addition to the opinions released this morning, the Supreme Court also issued its final orders disbarring former Judge Brooks Blitch and accepting the voluntary surrender of former Judge Jack Camp’s license to practice law.

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