Contract. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Brasher.
Bodker Ramsey Andrews Winograd & Wildstein, Robert E. Rigrish, for appellant.
Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, Nicholas P. Panayotopoulos, for appellee.
BARNES, Presiding Judge. Boggs and Branch, JJ., concur.
Barnes, Presiding Judge.
This case involves a contractual dispute between Plaintiff David Brazeal and his former employer, Defendant NewPoint Media Group, LLC, regarding whether Brazeal was owed severance pay after NewPoint declined to renew his employment contract for an additional one-year term. The trial court denied Brazeal's motion for summary judgment, and granted NewPoint's cross-motion for summary judgment, concluding that NewPoint was not required to pay severance to Brazeal as a matter of law. In reaching this conclusion, the trial court reviewed Brazeal's employment contract and determined that it plainly and unambiguously distinguished between the nonrenewal of his contract at the end of a term and the termination of his employment without cause, requiring severance pay only in the latter circumstance. Brazeal now appeals. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings and evidence " show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." OCGA § 9-11-56 (c). " Contract disputes are particularly well suited for adjudication by summary judgment because construction of contracts is ordinarily a matter of law for the court." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Grot v. Capital One Bank (USA), 317 Ga.App. 786, 793 (6) (732 S.E.2d 305) (2012). On appeal from a trial court's [331 Ga.App. 50] grant or denial of summary judgment, we " conduct a de novo review, construing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Bank of North Ga. v. Windermere Dev., 316 Ga.App. 33, 34 (728 S.E.2d 714) (2012). So viewed, the record shows as follows.
Brazeal was hired as chief financial officer (" CFO" ) of NewPoint pursuant to an employment agreement dated June 28, 2012 (the " Agreement" ). Section 1 of the Agreement provided that Brazeal's initial term of employment would be for one year and would automatically renew for additional one-year periods unless Brazeal or NewPoint provided to the other party written notice of " non-renewal" :
1. Term. The term of Employee's employment will commence (the " Start Date" ) on the later of (a) the date of this Agreement and (b) the date on which the Company acquires substantially all of the assets of Network Communications, Inc. (the " Seller" ), and continue for a period of one year (the " Initial Term" ) and shall thereafter automatically renew for additional twelve (12) month periods (each, a " Renewal Term" ) unless written notice of non-renewal is given by one party to the other at least ninety (90) days prior to the expiration of the Initial Term or any Renewal Term, as applicable. Employee's actual term of employment by the Company under this Agreement is referred to as the " Term." The provisions of Sections 8 through 11 hereof shall survive the termination of Employee's employment with the Company in accordance with their respective terms.
Emphasis in original.)
" Notwithstanding Section 1," Section 6 of the Agreement provided NewPoint with the ability to terminate Brazeal's employment at any time " for any reason or for no reason whatsoever, with or without Cause," and Brazeal with the ability to resign his employment at any time " for any reason or for no reason whatsoever," if certain notice requirements were met:
6. Ability to Terminate. Notwithstanding Section 1, Employee understands and agrees that the Company reserves the right upon thirty (30) days prior written notice (which notice will not be required in the event of termination for Cause, in which case termination shall be effective on the date of the notice) to terminate Employee's employment [331 Ga.App. 51] with the Company at any time for any reason or for no reason whatsoever, with or without Cause. Likewise, Employee may Resign his employment with the Company at any time (upon thirty (30) days prior written notice) for any ...