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Courtland Hotel, LLC v. Salzer

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 6, 2014


Reconsideration denied December 8, 2014 -- Cert. applied for.

Contract. Fulton State Court. Before Judge Edlein.

Stokes Lazarus & Carmichael, William K. Carmichael, N. Charles Campbell, for appellant.

Kitchens New Cleghorn, Jonathan D. Forbes, for appellee.

MCFADDEN, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.


Page 751

McFadden, Judge.

This case concerns the individual liability of an agent, Joshua Salzer, under a contract with Courtland Hotel, LLC d/b/a Sheraton Atlanta Hotel (" the hotel" ). The contract identified the agent's corporate principal by an acronym rather than the principal's full name. The trial court held that, as a matter of law, Salzer was not individually liable for breach of the contract, granting summary judgment to Salzer and denying summary judgment to the hotel on the hotel's breach of contract action. Because the undisputed evidence shows that the parties did not intend for Salzer to be individually liable under the contract, and the variance in the principal's name is merely a misnomer, we affirm.

A trial court may grant summary judgment when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. OCGA § 9-11-56 (c). " We review the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo, and we must view the evidence, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant." Woodcraft by MacDonald v. Ga. Cas. and Surety Co., 293 Ga. 9, 10 (743 S.E.2d 373) (2013) (citation and punctuation omitted).

The evidence relevant to the dispositive issues in this case is undisputed. In September 2012, Convention Organizing and Leadership Team, Inc. (" the corporation" ) was incorporated in North Carolina. The principals of the corporation referred to it by the acronym " C.O.L.T., Inc." both among themselves and in their dealings with Salzer, an event coordinator whom the corporation engaged to book rooms at the hotel for a " My Little Pony" fan convention that the corporation planned to hold over several days in January 2013. Salzer had worked with the hotel before, performing similar services on behalf of other clients.

On October 10, 2012, Salzer signed the contract at issue. The contract identified the parties as the hotel and " C.O.L.T., Inc." The contract required the hotel to provide " C.O.L.T., Inc." with guest rooms and function space for the convention, and it required " C.O.L.T., Inc." to make certain payments to the hotel if it cancelled the convention. Salzer signed the contract on behalf of " C.O.L.T., Inc." in [330 Ga.App. 265] the capacity of " Meeting Coordinator/Acting Chairman." The corporation had authorized Salzer to represent himself as the " Chairman" of the event at the hotel, but Salzer was not a shareholder, director or officer of the corporation.

Subsequently, the principals of the corporation cancelled the event, and the hotel filed its " Complaint on Contract and Account" against Salzer. The hotel did not name the corporation as a defendant in that action. It moved for summary judgment against Salzer, arguing that he was individually liable under the contract because he signed the contract on behalf of a nonexistent entity. Salzer opposed the hotel's motion on the ground that he was not a party to the contract but signed it as an agent for the corporation. He also moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim or, alternatively, to compel arbitration of the dispute pursuant to an arbitration clause in the contract. The trial court denied the hotel's motion for summary judgment and, instead, granted summary judgment to Salzer on the ground that " the undisputed evidence show[ed] that the use of the name 'C.O.L.T., Inc.' in the contract was a misnomer and that Convention Organization and Leadership Team, Inc. is the corporation intended to be bound under the contract." See generally Johnson v. RLI Ins. Co., 288 Ga. 309, 310 (704 S.E.2d 173) (2010) (trial court's consideration of matters outside pleadings in effect converts motion to dismiss to motion for summary judgment).

We find no error in the trial court's rulings. While " an agent who makes a contract without disclosing that he is acting as an agent or without identifying his principal ... will become individually liable on the contract[,]" Action Concrete v. Focal Point Engineering, 296 Ga.App. 567, 569 (675 S.E.2d 303) (2009) (citation and punctuation omitted), the undisputed evidence shows that Salzer both disclosed to the hotel that he was acting as an agent and sufficiently identified his principal.

The language of the contract disclosed that Salzer was acting as an agent rather than on his own behalf. The contract purported on its face to be that of a principal, identifying an entity (not Salzer) as the ...

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