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End of Term Opinions

March 28, 2013

Today at 2:00 pm, the Supreme Court of Georgia will be releasing opinions in three cases, two of which are within the scope of our coverage. These are the last cases of this term of court.

We will update after 2:00 with the opinions, but in the meantime, brief summaries of the cases are below.

S11G1839. CITY OF ATLANTA v. CITY OF COLLEGE PARK et al.

This case involves whether the City of Atlanta or the City of College Park has the right to tax businesses located in the parts of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that are located in the city limits of College Park. College Park announced in 2007 that it would begin collecting occupation taxes on businesses within its city limits in the airport. Atlanta sued, seeking injunctive and other relief. The trial court determined that a 1969 agreement between the cities related to the airport was unenforceable to the extent it allowed to collect occupation taxes outside its city limits. The trial court declared that only College Park could collect taxes within its city limits, but also found that College Park could not collect taxes from Atlanta because Atlanta is a “local authority.” The trial court further found that only College Park could regulate and collect taxes on the sale of alcoholic beverages in its city limits. Atlanta and College Park appealed.

The Court of Appeals (Ellington, Andrews, Doyle) unanimously affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that the trial court correctly decided that Atlanta could not impose taxes outside of its jurisdictional limits and College Park could collect taxes inside its city limits. But the Court of Appeals also found that the trial court incorrectly found that Atlanta was a “local authority.” Instead, College Park is able to levy taxes on the revenue-generating activities of Atlanta within College Park’s city limits. The Court of Appeals also vacated the portion of the trial court opinion regarding regulation and taxes of alcoholic beverage sales, finding that was an impermissible advisory opinion.

On May 7, 2012, the Supreme Court granted Atlanta’s petition for certiorari in a 4-3 vote (Carley, Hines, and Melton dissenting) to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err when it determined that the City of Atlanta was not a “local authority” as that term is used in OCGA § 48-13-13 (5)?

The case was heard on September 10, 2012.

S12Q2087 Bullard v. MRA Holding, LLC et al.

This is a case involving the use of a woman’s image and video on a Girls Gone Wild tape. When Bullard was 14 years old (in 2000), she allowed two men to videotape her exposing herself in Panama City, Florida. The men did not have any identification that they were associated withGirls Gone Wild and gave Bullard a beaded necklace in return for her participation. MRA Holding, which sells the Girls Gone Wild videos, purchased the footage and incorporated it into two of its videos, also using Bullard’s image for the cover of the video and in advertising.

In 2004, Bullard sued MRA seeking damages related to appropriation of her likeness, along with other claims. After granting MRA’s motion for summary judgment on all claims except for appropriation of likeness, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia certified the following questions to the Supreme Court regarding the remaining claim:

1. Does Georgia law govern plaintiff’s appropriation of likeness claim when:

a. The plaintiff, whose domicile is in Georgia, has been videotaped in Florida;

b. when her clip has been included in a video including images of other such girls, and her image has been placed prominently on the cover of the marketing materials, with a statement arguably attributed to plaintiff that she did not make;

c. when that video, along with plaintiff’s image and statement on the cover of the video, has been advertised nationally, including in Georgia, and when the video has been marketed and sold nation-wide, including in Georgia; and

d. when the emotional injury to plaintiff, such as humiliation, ridicule, and other negative consequences, has occurred in Georgia?

e. If Georgia law does not control, which state’s law does govern the dispute in this case?

2. Assuming that Georgia law does control, do the facts stated above give rise to a cause of action under Georgia law for appropriation of plaintiff’s image?

a. If so, and for purposes of instructing a jury, what are the elements of such a claim?

3. Third, if a reasonable jury could find for plaintiff on the above facts on an appropriation claim, what type of damages may plaintiff recover?

a. If the answer to this question is “the advertising value of the use of the material in the manner and for the time it was appropriated,” is plaintiff required to show some preexisting “advertising value” for her image prior to being videotaped or, instead, does the “advertising value” test look to the value of the image, itself, when the model is not known to the public and when that image is used on video packaging materials and on television advertisements of a product?

4. On the above facts, does a plaintiff’s consent to being videotaped constitute consent to the videographer, or his assignees, to incorporate the clip into a video tape that is commercially distributed and to place a photo from that clip on the cover of the video packaging?

5. If, under Georgia law, the answer to Question #4 is “yes,” can a plaintiff’s consent be rendered invalid if the plaintiff was a minor?

a. If a plaintiff’s minor status can undo an otherwise valid consent, does this minor status automatically undo consent in all circumstances?

b. If not, what are the factors that the jury should consider in determining whether the consent of a minor is valid?

The case was heard at oral argument on November 5, 2012.

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