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Gary v. Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group

Court of Appeals of Georgia

August 29, 2014

GARY
v.
DOLLAR THRIFTY AUTOMOTIVE GROUP

Reconsideration denied October 21, 2014.

Res judicata. Fulton State Court. Before Judge Leftridge, pro hac vice.

Joe E. Gary, Jr., pro se.

Carlock, Copeland & Stair, Adam L. Appel, for appellee.

MILLER, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Dillard, J., concur.

OPINION

Miller, Judge.

This appeal arises from a subrogation suit filed by Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group (" DTAG" ) against pro se defendant Joe E. Gary, Jr., to recover damages DTAG paid following a January 2007 automobile accident in which Gary was driving a DTAG rental vehicle. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded damages to DTAG in the amount of approximately $50,000 in principal along with post-judgment interest. On appeal, Gary argues that the trial court erred

Page 355

in not ruling that DTAG's lawsuit was barred by res judicata and in failing to require DTAG to comply with his discovery requests.[1] For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On appeal from the entry of judgment in a bench trial, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's verdict. Cox Interior v. Bayland Properties, 293 Ga.App. 612, 613 (1) (667 S.E.2d 452) (2008). Although the bench trial was not transcribed, the evidence shows that, in January 2007, Gary rented a vehicle from DTAG. Gary was driving the DTAG rental vehicle when he was involved in an automobile accident. Gary purchased a damage waiver plan that relieved him of liability for damage to the rental vehicle, but he did not purchase supplemental liability insurance from DTAG to cover bodily injury or property damage to third parties. In February 2007, DTAG sent Gary correspondence advising him to immediately report the accident to his insurance company, Shield Insurance Company (" Shield" ). There is no evidence that Gary informed Shield of the accident at that time.

In July 2011, DTAG filed the instant subrogation claim against Gary for damages it paid as a result of the accident. DTAG subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, under the rental agreement, Gary was required to indemnify DTAG. In November 2011, the trial court granted DTAG's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, and the case was scheduled for a bench trial on the issue of damages.

[329 Ga.App. 321] Thereafter, Shield moved to intervene and to stay the instant case until its coverage obligations could be determined in a separate declaratory judgment action. The trial court granted Shield's motions.

In the declaratory judgment action, the trial court found that, although Gary had available coverage for the accident under his policy, Shield was not obligated to provide such coverage because Gary failed to provide timely notice of the underlying accident. Shield subsequently filed a motion to dismiss it as a party to this case and to terminate the stay on the basis that it had been granted summary judgment in the declaratory judgment action. The trial court in this case granted Shield's motion to dismiss and terminated the stay.

Gary moved to compel discovery and to dismiss DTAG's lawsuit on the basis that the declaratory judgment granted to Shield precluded further litigation of DTAG's claims because the trial court in the declaratory judgment case ruled that he was unable to pay DTAG.[2] There is no evidence that the trial court ruled on Gary's motions. The case proceeded to a bench trial, resulting in the trial court's award of damages to ...


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