DILLARD, C. J., RAY, P. J. and SELF, J.
discretionary appeal, Strategic Law, LLC seeks review of the
trial court's order denying its motion for attorney fees
pursuant to a judgment enforcement agreement, and its motion
for attorney fees pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-68. For the
reasons that follow, we reverse.
record shows that Strategic Law filed a complaint in
magistrate court against Pain Management & Wellness
Centers of Georgia, LLC, and Isaac Cohen, claiming that they
failed to pay Strategic Law for legal services rendered.
Appellees allegedly hired Strategic Law to prepare an answer
to an appeal taken from magistrate court. Shortly after
receiving a draft answer, appellees advised Strategic Law
that they did not want to proceed with the appeal. Appellees
then filed the documents prepared by Strategic Law and
defended the matter.
Law prevailed against appellees in the magistrate court in
the lawsuit which forms the basis of this appeal and
appellees appealed that judgment to the state court.
Strategic Law subsequently amended its complaint to include a
claim for fraud. Strategic Law submitted to appellees an
offer of settlement pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-68, offering
to settle its tort claim for $3, 000, exclusive of attorney
fees, costs, prejudgment interest, punitive damages, and
litigation expenses. Appellees did not respond to the offer.
Several months later, the parties filed a joint motion for
consent judgment in the amount of $3, 755, which the state
court judge adopted and entered. The parties also entered
into a judgment enforcement agreement on March 15, 2016,
which provided that appellees would: (1) immediately tender
$500 to Strategic Law's business address; (2) for a
period of 15 weeks thereafter, tender $200 such that
Strategic Law would receive it by the close of business on
each subsequent Monday; and (3) following the final $200
payment, tender a final payment of $255 such that Strategic
Law would receive it by the close of business on the
subsequent Monday. The agreement also provided that
"[t]he Parties agree that time is of the essence, and
that failure of [Strategic Law] to actually receive the
amounts specified above on the dates and in the manners
identified above shall serve to nullify this Agreement,
requiring payment in full of all remaining amounts
immediately, and entitling [Strategic Law] to its reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs in enforcing the same."
The agreement was signed by Cohen and a representative of
Pain Management & Wellness Centers of Georgia, LLC, but
it was not signed by any representative of Strategic Law, LLC
or Stein Law, LLC,  although it had a signature line for
Douglas Stein, Manager of Stein Law, LLC.
made the initial $500 payment but allegedly failed to make a
timely $200 payment,  and Strategic Law filed a motion to
enforce the judgment enforcement agreement, a motion for
attorney fees pursuant to the enforcement agreement, and a
motion for attorney fees pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-68. In
its motion for fees pursuant to the enforcement agreement,
Strategic Law sought fees incurred in preparing the motion to
enforce. In its motion for fees pursuant to OCGA §
9-11-68, Strategic Law sought all fees incurred since its
settlement offer. Appellees responded that there was no
legally binding enforcement agreement because Strategic Law
failed to sign it. They also argued that they had simply been
a few days late in making the first $200 payment due to
confusion concerning the beginning date of payments, and the
motion to enforce was moot because they had caught up on the
scheduled payments. At some point while the motions were
pending, the appellees paid the balance of the consent
a hearing,  the trial court denied the motion for fees
pursuant to the judgment enforcement agreement as
unnecessary, stating that while Strategic Law had argued that
appellees were not making timely payments, Strategic Law
acknowledged that all payments had been made by the hearing.
The trial court also denied the motion for fees pursuant to
OCGA § 9-11-68, stating that the statute was not meant
to apply to cases involving consent judgments.
Law contends that the trial court erred in denying the motion
for fees pursuant to the judgment enforcement agreement
because the agreement required appellees to pay for fees
Strategic Law incurred in bringing a motion to enforce the
agreement if it did not timely receive payments. In addition,
Strategic Law argues that the court erred in denying the
motion for fees pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-68 because the
statute applies to consent judgments and only requires a
judgment of sufficient size to trigger a fee award; Strategic
Law contends that this appears to be an issue of first
impression. Appellees argue that Strategic Law did not
execute the judgment enforcement agreement and, in any event,
the motion to enforce was unnecessary because they paid the
balance of the consent judgment before the hearing. Appellees
further argue that the consent judgment is not a judgment or
verdict as required by OCGA § 9-11-68.
appeal from a trial court's order on a motion to enforce
a settlement agreement, this Court applies a de novo standard
of review, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Lamb v. Fulton-DeKalb Hosp.
Auth., 297 Ga.App. 529 (677 S.E.2d 328) (2009). Further,
we treat a judgment enforcement agreement, entered into in
conjunction with a consent judgment, as a binding agreement,
enforceable as a contract. See Hicks v. Walker, 265
Ga.App. 495, 496 (594 S.E.2d 710) (2004).
Because a settlement agreement is a contract, it is subject
to the usual rules of [contract] construction. While the
cardinal rule of construction is to determine the intention
of the parties, no construction is required or permitted when
the language employed by the parties in the contract is
plain, unambiguous, and capable of only one reasonable
Lamb, supra, 297 Ga.App. at 533 (2).
the judgment enforcement agreement clearly provided that if
appellees did not make timely payments, Strategic Law would
be entitled to attorney fees incurred in seeking payment.
Appellees did not make timely payments and Strategic Law
sought payment. Therefore, Strategic Law is entitled to
attorney fees it incurred in filing the motion to enforce,
regardless of the fact that appellees subsequently made the
required payments. While it does not appear that Strategic
Law signed the written judgment enforcement agreement, oral
settlement agreements are enforceable if their existence is
established without dispute. See Walker v. Lewis,
267 Ga.App. 831 (600 S.E.2d 773) (2004). In this case, there
is no dispute about the existence or terms of the instant
agreement. In fact, as evidenced by emails between counsel,
Strategic Law submitted the agreement to appellees and made
several demands that they sign it. As the agreement provided
that Strategic Law would be entitled to its reasonable
attorney fees and costs in enforcing the agreement, the trial
court erred in denying Strategic Law's motion for fees
pursuant to the judgment enforcement agreement. Accordingly,
we reverse the trial court's denial of Strategic
Law's motion for fees pursuant to the judgment
enforcement agreement and remand for the trial court's
determination of the amount of reasonable fees to be awarded
to Strategic Law under this motion.
we agree that Strategic Law is entitled to attorney fees
incurred in preparing and arguing its motion to enforce the
judgment enforcement agreement, this does not end our
inquiry. Indeed, Strategic Law also sought to "recover
reasonable attorney's fees and expenses of litigation
incurred . . . from the date of the rejection of the
offer of settlement through the entry of judgment"
pursuant to OCGA § 9-11-68. Because this request for
fees includes amounts unrelated to the motion to enforce, it
is necessary for us to address Strategic Law's second
enumeration of error.
noted previously, Strategic Law argues that the court erred
in denying its motion for fees pursuant to OCGA §
9-11-68 because the statute applies to consent judgments and
only requires a judgment of sufficient size to trigger a fee
award. We agree and find that it was error to deny attorney
fees under OCGA § 9-11-68, Georgia's offer of
settlement statute. See Richardson v. Locklyn, 339
Ga.App. 457, 459 ...