Offer of settlement. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Wright.
Reynolds, Horne & Survant, W. Carl Reynolds, Bradley J. Survant, Timothy J. Boyd, for appellant.
Goodman McGuffey Lindsey & Johnson, Joshua S. Stein, James T. Hankins III, for appellees.
ANDREWS, Presiding Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.
Andrews, Presiding Judge.
Appellees Argo-Memorial Drive Associates, LLC (" Argo" ) and J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. filed a motion for attorney fees and litigation expenses pursuant to the " offer of settlement statute," OCGA § 9-11-68, after the trial court granted their second motion for summary judgment in Lisa Tiller's premises liability action against them. The trial court granted Appellees' motion, and Tiller now appeals, arguing that Appellees' offer failed to comply with OCGA § 9-11-68 (a) [331 Ga.App. 623] and was not made in good faith and that Appellees failed to prove the reasonableness of the fees and expenses they sought to recover. We conclude that the offer of settlement did not meet the requirements of OCGA § 9-11-68 (a), and we therefore reverse.
We apply a de novo standard of review when an appeal presents a question of law regarding whether the trial court correctly interpreted and applied OCGA § 9-11-68 (a). Great West Cas. Co. v. Bloomfield, 303 Ga.App. 26, 27 (693 S.E.2d 99) (2010).
The record reflects that Tiller filed a complaint against Appellees, RJJB, and a fictitious ABC Corporation and John Doe on July 15, 2011 to recover for injuries she suffered when she slipped on water on the tile floor outside of a restroom in the building in which she worked, located at 4380 Memorial Drive in Decatur. The complaint alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe; failing to provide a safe environment for lawful invitees; failing to maintain the property and allowing the property to become unsafe for lawful invitees; and failing to implement procedures that would provide for the safety of lawful invitees. Tiller thereafter filed and served an amended complaint naming Memorial Associates, LLC (" Memorial" ) in the place of ABC Corporation.
On June 11, 2012, Appellees and RJJB filed a motion for summary judgment. Shortly thereafter, Tiller filed a motion for entry of a default judgment against Memorial for failure to timely file an answer. On July 16, 2012, the trial court granted the motion for default judgment against Memorial as to liability, with the issue of damages to be heard at a later time. On August 24, 2012, the trial court entered an order granting the pending summary judgment motion as to Tiller's claims against RJJB but denying it as to her claims against Appellees,
concluding that material issues of fact remained as to Appellees' liability " especially in light of the fact that discovery is still being conducted by the parties."
On September 12, 2012, Appellees served Tiller with an offer to settle pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-68 by certified mail. The offer ...