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Next Week at the Court

March 1, 2013

On Monday and Tuesday of next week, the Supreme Court of Georgia will hear argument in 10 cases, two of which are within the scope of our coverage. Summaries of the cases being heard are below.

Monday, March 4, 2013 10:00 am Sitting

S13Q0462 Taylor Morrison Services, Inc., f/k/a Morrison Homes, Inc. v. HDI-Gerling America Insurance Co.

This case focuses on whether property damage at issue in a California class action lawsuit was covered by Morrison’s CGL policy from Gerling. The class action began when property owners sued Morrison, alleging that the homes built by Morrison were improperly constructed because of a failure to include sufficient gravel under the foundations of the homes. The homeowners alleged they suffered property damage to the houses including water intrusion, cracked concrete slabs, and broken floors. After initially defending Morrison in the case, Gerling brought this action in 2009, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no obligation to defend Morrison for the claims in the class action litigation. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted summary judgment to Gerling, finding that the class action claims were not based on an “occurrence” as defined in the policy. Morrison appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reviewed the law and could find no controlling Georgia authority on the proper definition of “occurrence” under Georgia law. The court particularly focused on whether there was occurrence if the faulty workmanship only causes damage to itself (i.e., the houses at issue) without damaging any other property.

On November 19, 2012, the Eleventh Circuit certified the following questions to the Supreme Court of Georgia:

  1. Whether, for an “occurrence” to exist under a standard CGL policy, Georgia law requires there to be damage to “other property,” that is, property other than the insured’s completed work itself.
  2. If the answer to Question One (1) is in the negative, whether, for an “occurrence” to exist under a standard CGL policy, Georgia law requires that the claims being defended not be for breach of contract, fraud, or breach of warranty from the failure to disclose material information.

The case will be heard on March 4, 2013.

S13A0517 Meade v. Williamson

This is an election contest surrounding the August 21 primary runoff election for Sheriff of Baker County, near the lower-left corner of the state. The margin was 39 votes, with the incumbent, Meade, prevailing. Williamson then contested the election. The Superior Court found numerous irregularities, including people who were given money and liquor in exchange for votes for Meade. The court also found irregularities with absentee ballots that had been marked in such a way that prevented votes for Williamson. Ultimately, the court found there was sufficient doubt as to the outcome of the election and ordered a new runoff election (PDF from WALB).

The new election was originally set for November 6, 2012, but was delayed to January 8 before being further delayed by this appeal.

The case will be heard on March 4, 2013.

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