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Next Week at the Court

June 13, 2014

The Supreme Court of Georgia will hear its last day of oral argument in the month of June on Monday. Of the three cases being argued, two are within the scope of our coverage and are summarized below.

S14A0620 Barzey v. City of Cuthbert

This case began when Deron Shorter was killed in 2010 while operating a mower for the City of Cuthbert. Shorter was not married and did not have any dependents, so the City denied his mother’s claim for his death benefit under the Worker’s Compensation Act. Barzey sued, claiming the statute’s limitations on death benefits to dependents (instead of heirs) violates the Equal Protection clause. The trial court granted summary judgment to the City and Barzey appealed.

The case was originally set to be heard on April 21, 2014, but was postponed and will now be heard on June 16, 2014.

S13G1826 Raysoni v. Payless Auto Deals, LLC et al.

This case began when Raysoni went to buy a car from Payless in September 2011. The salesman showed him a 2008 Honda Odyssey and told Raysoni the van was clean and undamaged. The salesman also showed Raysoni the Carfax report, which showed no accident or damage to the vehicle. Raysoni purchased the car, signing a Buyer’s Order that contained a disclaimer stating the vehicle was sold as-is with no warranty and that the dealership assumed no responsibility for repairs, regardless of any oral statements about the vehicle. In addition, the Buyer’s Order contained all-caps language stating, “THIS VEHICLE WAS ANNOUNCED HAVING UNIBODY DAMAGE AT THE AUCTION” and that Payless “STRONGLY RECOMMEND[ED] CUSTOMERS SHOULD GET VEHICLE INSPECTED BY A MECHANIC OF THEIR CHOICE BEFORE MAKING THE PURCHASE.” Several months, Raysoni decided to trade the van in at Carmax. When he took the vehicle for an appraisal, Carmax told him that the van had frame damage and extensive work had been performed on it. Repairs could cost up to $12,000 and after those repairs, the loss in value from the purchase price would be at least $8,000.

Raysoni returned the van to Payless and asked them to re-purchase it, but Payless refused. Raysoni then sent a Fair Business Practices Act (FBPA) notice to Payless and later filed a complaint based on misrepresentation, violations of fair trade practices, deceit, and revocation of acceptance. Payless moved for judgment on the pleadings and the trial court granted the motion. Raysoni appealed.

The Court of Appeals (McMillian, Andrews, Dillard) unanimously affirmed the trial court’s decision, finding that lack of justifiable reliance bars a claim under the FBPA. Because Raysoni ignored the information in the disclaimers about prior damage, he had notice and an opportunity to detect the problems with the car before he bought it, eliminating any justifiable reliance. The lack of fraud similarly barred his other complaints. After a motion for reconsideration, the Court of Appeals issued a further order on July 30, 2013. In that additional language, the panel distinguished the City Dodge case that allowed a claim for fraud which induced the execution of a contract in the face of a merger clause. The number of express disclaimers, combined with Raysoni’s duty to read the Buyer’s Order, made the case more like Novare, which disallowed claims for fraud in the procurement when a party had the capacity and opportunity to read a contract.

On March 3, 2014, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously granted the petition for certiorari to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in affirming the trial court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings to the defendant? Compare Novare Group, Inc. v. Sarif, 290 Ga. 186 (2) (2011) with City Dodge, Inc. v. Gardner, 232 Ga. 766 (1974). See also OCGA § 10-1-393 (c); Johnson v. GAPVT, 292 Ga. App. 79,85 (2008).

The case will be heard on June 16, 2014.

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