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Gwinnett County v. Old Peachtree Partners, LLC

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 23, 2014


Reconsideration denied November 13, 2014 -- Cert. applied for.

Page 194

Interest. Gwinnett Superior Court. Before Judge Clark.

M. Van Stephens II, Michael P. Ludwiczak, for appellant.

Balch & Bingham, Michael J. Bowers, M. Anne Kaufold-Wiggins, Webb, Tanner, Powell, Mertz & Wilson, Anthony O. L. Powell, for appellee.

BARNES, Presiding Judge. Boggs and Branch, JJ., concur.


Page 195

Barnes, Presiding Judge.

This is the second appearance of this case arising out of a settlement in which Gwinnett County agreed to, among other things, purchase 16.203 acres of property from Old Peachtree Partners, LLC for the price of $5.2 million. The settlement was reached to resolve all [329 Ga.App. 541] of the pending litigation between the parties, including a condemnation action that had been filed by the County. The trial court initially concluded that the settlement agreement was unenforceable, but this Court reversed and held that the County was bound by the settlement. See Old Peachtree Partners v. Gwinnett County, 315 Ga.App. 342, 345-348 (1) (726 S.E.2d 437) (2012) (" Old Peachtree Partners I " ). Following remand, the trial court entered an order enforcing the settlement, and the parties closed on the transaction, with the County paying Old Peachtree for the purchase of the 16.203 acres. The trial court ultimately awarded prejudgment interest to Old Peachtree on the purchase price for the 16.203 acres of property and ruled that Old Peachtree was entitled to a trial on its claim for incidental damages. The County now appeals the trial court's award of prejudgment interest and its grant of a trial on Old Peachtree's claim for incidental damages. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

This case began with Gwinnett County filing two lawsuits seeking to acquire property owned by Old Peachtree for a public road extension project.[1] Old Peachtree owned two adjacent parcels of property in Gwinnett County located in the area of the road extension, the first parcel consisting of 1.867 acres and the second parcel consisting of 16.203 acres. In the first lawsuit filed against Old Peachtree in April 2008, the County asserted claims for specific performance and breach of contract, seeking to enforce the terms of an option agreement to purchase Old Peachtree's first parcel of property for $1,100,000. Old Peachtree answered, alleging that the

Page 196

County had failed to satisfy a condition precedent to exercising the option. Old Peachtree also asserted counterclaims for fraud and for inverse condemnation of its second parcel of property, contending that the County's installation of a sewer line across its property after acquiring the first parcel would destroy Old Peachtree's ability to develop the second parcel.

While the first lawsuit was pending, the County filed a second lawsuit against Old Peachtree. The second suit was a condemnation action instituted for the purpose of acquiring Old Peachtree's first parcel of property for the road extension.

In the summer of 2009, the parties began to discuss a settlement to resolve the pending litigation, including the condemnation action. Old Peachtree presented the County with a written offer of settlement on May 1, 2009, and on May 5, 2009, the Gwinnett County [329 Ga.App. 542] Board of Commissioners (the " Board" ) met in executive session and rejected the offer. However, the Board authorized the county attorney to present Old Peachtree with a counteroffer of settlement to resolve both pending lawsuits, and the attorney conveyed the counteroffer to Old Peachtree by letter dated May 8, 2009. The counteroffer included payment by the County of $1,100,000 for the first parcel that was the subject of the condemnation action, and $5,265,975 for the second parcel that Old Peachtree argued had been inversely condemned. Under the terms of the counteroffer, the County offered to settle all pending disputes between the parties in exchange for Old Peachtree agreeing to the aforementioned prices as payment for the two parcels. On May 12, 2009, Old Peachtree, through its attorney, verbally accepted the County's settlement counteroffer.

The parties began preparing the documents that were the subject of the settlement agreement, including a purchase and sale agreement, a final consent order, and a mutual general release. Old Peachtree signed and delivered the settlement documents to the County on June 13, 2009. However, on August 4, 2009, the Board voted against the purchase of Old Peachtree's property.

After the County refused to carry out the settlement agreement, Old Peachtree filed a counterclaim in the first lawsuit for breach of that agreement. In its prayer for relief, Old Peachtree prayed for damages, prejudgment interest, and " such other and further relief as the [trial court] deem[ed] just, equitable and proper under the facts, circumstances, and evidence presented in this case." The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment relating to the enforceability of the option agreement and the settlement agreement. The County argued, among other things, that the settlement agreement was unenforceable because approval of the purchase by the full Board at a public meeting was ...

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