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Tafel v. Lion Antique Cars & Investemnts, Inc.

Supreme Court of Georgia

June 15, 2015

TAFEL
v.
LION ANTIQUE CARS & INVESTMENTS, INC.; and vice versa

Equity. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Tusan.

Alston & Bird, Nowell D. Bereth, Brian D. Boone, William H. Hughes, Jr.; Nicholas H. Lynton, for appellant.

Greenberg Traurig, Michael J. King; Andrew N. Capezzuto, for appellee.

THOMPSON, Chief Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 744

Thompson, Chief Justice.

This appeal and cross-appeal involve a longstanding financial dispute between appellant and cross-appellee, Jim Tafel, and appellee and cross-appellant, Lion Antique Cars & Investments, Inc., involving two Ferrari race cars. In the main appeal, Tafel contends, among other things, that the trial court erred in declining to exercise its equitable powers to mark satisfied a judgment that Lion Antique had obtained against him. In the cross-appeal, Lion Antique argues that the trial court erred in valuing the race cars for purposes of [297 Ga. 335] offsetting a part of the judgment that it had obtained against Tafel. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.[1]

1. This controversy stems from a December 2007 " Race Car Loan Agreement," in which Lion Antique agreed to purchase two Ferrari F430 GT race cars and loan them to Tafel for him to race. The agreement provided that Lion Antique would hold title to the race cars; that at the end of the 2008 season, Tafel either had to purchase the race cars or sell them to a third party; and that the proceeds from any sale would go to Lion Antique, with Tafel being responsible for paying Lion Antique for any difference between the sales price and the original purchase price of the cars.

During the 2008 season, Lion Antique asserted Tafel committed a technical default of the agreement by failing to sufficiently insure the cars and filed suit against Tafel in California. In December 2008, Lion Antique obtained a stipulated judgment against Tafel for about $1.5 million, including $1,443,603.38 as the agreed purchase price of the two race cars.

Page 745

Shortly thereafter, on January 14, 2009, Lion Antique filed a " Petition for Ne Exeat" against Tafel in Georgia, alleging that Tafel still had possession of the race cars and that Lion Antique had a reasonable fear that he would remove or sell the race cars to its detriment. Lion Antique sought, among other things, an injunction requiring Tafel to surrender the cars to it. Simultaneously, Lion Antique filed a separate action seeking to domesticate the California judgment.

The trial court held an emergency hearing on Lion Antique's ne exeat petition, and, on January 20, 2009, issued a " Turnover Order" directing Tafel to turn the race cars over to Lion Antique and ordering Lion Antique to immediately market and sell the cars and to report the sales prices to the court so that those amounts could be deducted from Lion Antique's judgment against Tafel. Tafel turned the race cars over to Lion Antique on January 22, 2009. Thereafter, Lion Antique shipped one of the cars overseas to race and shipped the second car to Nevada where it sat in a garage for the remainder of 2009. On June 29, 2009, Lion Antique's California judgment was domesticated in Georgia.

On April 28, 2010, Tafel filed a motion for satisfaction of judgment, arguing that Lion Antique's judgment against Tafel should be marked satisfied because Lion Antique violated the trial court's Turnover Order by failing to immediately market and sell the race [297 Ga. 336] cars. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an order on July 21, 2010, denying Tafel's motion, but agreeing to schedule a jury trial to determine the value of the cars as of the date of the Turnover Order so that the amount of the judgment could be reduced by that amount. The superior court's order also provided that upon completion of the jury trial the court would hear additional evidence in order to rule on the equitable issues raised by Tafel, including whether Lion Antique violated the Turnover Order.

In June 2013, the jury found that the value of the cars as of the date of the Turnover Order was $693,000. Thereafter, in anticipation of a final bench trial on the remaining equitable issues, the trial court allowed the parties to pursue additional discovery. During this discovery period, Tafel obtained a previously unproduced insurance binder which indicated that the ...


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