ESTATE OF ANNIE CROOK et al.
Cert. applied for.
Unjust enrichment. Peach Superior Court. Before Judge Self.
Walter G. Sammons, Jr., for appellants.
Ben M. Mills, Jr., for appellee.
DOYLE, Chief Judge. Phipps, P. J., and Boggs, J., concur.
Doyle, Chief Judge.
The estate of Annie Crook and Ralph Jackson, in his capacity as administrator of the estate (collectively, " the Estate" ), sued Albert L. Foster for unjust enrichment. A jury found in favor of the Estate, awarding damages in the amount of $30,000, and the trial court entered a judgment. Thereafter, the trial court entered an order granting a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (" JNOV" ) and, alternatively, a motion for new trial. The Estate appeals that order, and we reverse for the reasons that follow.
The record shows that Crook owned a house in Peach County that was paid for and unencumbered by a mortgage. Crook and Foster began dating in 2003, and in August 2010, they decided to purchase a home in Dooly County. In order to purchase the Dooly County property, Crook executed a deed for her Peach County home to secure the debt, and both Crook and Foster signed a note for $50,000 in favor of SunMark Bank (" the Bank" ). The Dooly County home was titled in the name of both Crook and Foster as joint tenants with a right of survivorship.
[333 Ga.App. 37] In December 2010, Crook ended her relationship with Foster. Two months later, on February 15, 2011, Foster married another woman. On February 23, 2011, Crook filed a lawsuit to remove Foster from the deed on the Dooly County home and asserted a claim for unjust enrichment, alleging that Foster
coerced her into putting his name on the deed for the Dooly County property; he did not contribute financially in any way to the purchase of the Dooly County home; and she needed to sell the Dooly County property and use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on the Peach County property.
Crook died on June 9, 2011. Thereafter, her daughter, Angela Brock, moved into the Peach County home with her family and made the payments on the mortgage signed by Crook and Foster. After about a year, Brock was unable to make the mortgage payments, and she moved out. A representative from the Bank contacted Foster about making payments, and Foster advised that he had no intention of paying the mortgage and would assist the Bank in the foreclosure process. On October 3, 2012, the Bank foreclosed on the Peach County property. Because the property sold for more than the mortgage amount, the Bank did not pursue a deficiency judgment against Foster. In February 2013, the Estate filed an amended complaint, asserting claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and fraud.
The case proceeded to a jury trial solely on the Estate's claim for unjust enrichment. After the Estate rested, Foster moved for a directed verdict, and the trial court orally denied the motion on the basis that there was clearly a jury question as to whether or not Crook gave Foster a gift or made a voluntary payment. Then, after both parties rested, Foster renewed his motion for a directed verdict, arguing only that there was " insufficient evidence ... to show that [Foster] has had any undue enhancement of property or money." The trial court orally denied the ...