Materialman's lien. Glynn Superior Court. Before Judge Lane.
Roberts Tate, James L. Roberts IV, Jason M. Tate, for appellant.
The Williams Litigation Group, Nathan T. Williams, Bishop & Lindberg, James A. Bishop, Gilbert Harrell Sumerford & Martin, Jeffrey P. Lutz, for appellee.
Seaboard Construction Company (" Seaboard" ) appeals from the trial court's grant of Kent Realty Brunswick, LLC's (" Kent's" ) motion for summary judgment, and the court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part.
On appeal from the grant or denial of summary judgment, this court applies a de novo standard of review. Woodcraft by MacDonald, Inc. v. Ga. Cas. and Sur. Co., 293 Ga. 9, 10 (743 S.E.2d 373) (2013). Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. OCGA § 9-11-56 (c). We must view the evidence, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable
to the nonmovant. Matjoulis v. Integon Gen. Ins. Corp., 226 Ga.App. 459 (1) (486 S.E.2d 684) (1997).
The stipulated facts reveal that in 2006, Harbor Development LP began to develop a 135-acre parcel for 1,600 residential lots and condominiums. Harbor contracted with Plant Improvement Company, Inc., d/b/a Seaboard Construction Company (" Seaboard" ), to perform certain site preparation work on Phase I which consisted of 60 acres. During the performance of the site work, Harbor received 17 applications for payment and paid the company $6,261,192.52. A total of $326,661.50 remained unpaid when a dispute arose between the parties concerning the calculation and processing of the final application for payment. Seaboard subsequently filed five materialman's liens, each in the amount of $363,959.81, against five separate properties of the development, two of which were owned by Kent, and one of which was owned by Harbor.
Four months after filing the liens, Seaboard filed suit against Harbor seeking payment of the unpaid retainage. Three days later, Kent filed a " Complaint for Damages and Equitable Relief" asserting defamation of title and seeking injunctive relief. Seaboard answered and counterclaimed to foreclose upon the liens. Shortly after the [331 Ga.App. 743] filing of Kent's suit, Seaboard filed a " Notice of Filing of Action for Claim on Materialman's Lien" for each of the Kent liens.
Following the filing of cross-motions for summary judgment, and after a hearing of the argument of counsel, the trial court granted Kent's motion and denied Seaboard's in a one-sentence order. During the hearing, however, the trial court concluded that the liens were invalid because they were not filed in the name of the lien holder and were excessive under OCGA § 44-14-361.1 (e). The court concluded further that there was a jury issue remaining on Kent's slander of title claim.
1. Seaboard contends that the trial court erred in granting Kent's motion for summary judgment on the validity of the liens. The court ruled on the record that the liens were invalid because they were not filed in the name of the lien holder and were excessive. We agree with the court's latter conclusion that the liens were excessive, and therefore hold that the court did not err in granting Kent's motion for summary judgment on this ground. See Georgia-Pacific v. Fields, 293 Ga. 499, 504 (2) (748 S.E.2d 407) (2013) (appellate court may affirm the grant of summary judgment when it is right for any reason).
OCGA § 44-14-361.1 (e) provides: " In no event shall the aggregate amount of liens set up by Code Section 44-14-361 exceed the contract price of the improvements made or services performed." This court held in Elec. Distribs. v. Turner Constr. Co., 196 Ga.App. 359 (395 S.E.2d 879) (1990), that " [t]he focus of this defense is the amount the owner of the property has spent under the contract at the time the lien was filed, for the claimant is entitled to recover only the balance of the contract price remaining to be paid at the time the lien was filed." Id. at 362 (2). That is, with regard to the work benefitting multiple properties, the amount of the contract relative to a particular owner's property. The parties agree that the amount of remaining unpaid principal on the contract for the work in Phase I of the development was $326,661.50. This phase consisted of ...