BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and MERCIER, JJ.
Barnes, Presiding Judge.
Sampson, who was joined as a party-defendant in a divorce
action, contests in these related appeals the viability of
judgments that collectively: (i) found him liable for money
damages for a vehicle of one of the divorcing spouses; (ii)
held him in contempt; (iii) ordered him to pay attorney fees;
and (iv) permitted garnishment of his funds. For reasons that
follow, we reverse the judgments in both cases; we further
remand Case No. A17A0918 for proceedings not inconsistent
with this opinion.
divorce proceedings between James Cureton (Husband) and
Jennifer Cureton (Wife), Husband cross-claimed that Wife had
wrongfully sold certain of his personal property, including a
1954 Chevrolet Bel Air vehicle. Husband identified the
individuals he believed had purchased his belongings, and
made prayer for either the return of his items, or "[i]n
the event said items are no longer available, said third
party defendants should be required to pay the fair market
value." Additionally, Husband filed a motion seeking to
add as party-defendants to his cross-claim those persons he
believed had obtained his property, eventually naming Sampson
as the individual who had received the vehicle.
court conducted a hearing on Husband's motion, and
Sampson appeared pro se. Thereafter, on August 16, 2011, the
court entered an order joining the identified persons.
Pertinent to Sampson, the court found that Wife had indeed
sold the vehicle to him and that, without Sampson added as a
party, "complete relief cannot be afforded to
[Husband]." The court reserved for subsequent
determination issues of whether the vehicle was marital or
separate property, whether Wife had held any ownership
interest in the vehicle when she sold it, and whether the
sale of the vehicle was valid and to a bona fide purchaser.
Thereupon, the court ordered that all added parties were
"enjoined from selling . . . or otherwise disposing of
said property until further Order."
years later, a rule nisi was issued in the divorce action,
identifying Sampson as a joined party-defendant and
scheduling for March 12, 2015 a hearing to show why the court
should not grant Husband's prayers:
that each and every sale of the property of [Husband] and the
property of this marriage be set aside, declared null and
void, and all property be returned to [Husband] or in the
event these items are no longer retrievable, the [joined
party-defendants] be required to pay an amount equivalent to
the fair market value of each and every item of [Husband].
of the rule nisi was attempted upon Sampson at his residence,
but he refused to accept any document; the rule nisi was left
at Sampson's door. Sampson was neither present nor
represented by counsel at the evidentiary hearing held as
scheduled. Thereafter, on May 14, 2015, the superior court
entered an "Order and Judgment in Resolution of Claims
Outside The Domestic Case, " determining that the
vehicle was not marital property, but "the
individual property of [Husband]."
order, the court additionally found that Sampson was not a
bona fide purchaser for value, declared Wife's sale of
the vehicle to Sampson void, and directed the sheriff to
accompany Husband to Sampson's residence to retrieve the
vehicle. The court went on to provide in its order that if
the vehicle is not returned to Husband's possession
within 48 hours of an attempted retrieval, "[Husband]
may immediately petition this court for a citation of
contempt on . . . Sampson, and petition for a hearing for a
monetary judgment against . . . [Sampson] in the amount of
the fair market value of the car, as testified to at the
March , 2015 hearing, and all associated cost and
2015, Husband returned to superior court and filed two
motions. In a "Motion to Clarify Order and Judgment In
Resolution of Claims Outside the Domestic Case, "
Husband alleged that he had been unable to retrieve the
vehicle because Sampson had sold it on eBay. Husband posited,
While [Husband] would assert that Sampson is clearly in
willful contempt of this Court's August 16, 2011 Order
[joining party-defendants to the divorce action and enjoining
those parties from selling or otherwise disposing of certain
items], he would also assert that the evidence in this case
is closed and that the Court can determine [Husband's]
damages without the necessity of any additional court
reciting evidence presented at the March 12, 2015 hearing
regarding the fair market value of the vehicle, Husband
requested that judgment be entered in his favor for "the
fair market value of the vehicle, which are the damages of
second motion filed that same day, captioned "Motion for
Citation of Contempt and Expenses of Litigation, "
Husband specifically requested that Sampson be held in
contempt for failing to comply with two orders: (i) the
August 16, 2011 order, enjoining the added party-defendants
from selling or otherwise disposing of certain items,
including the vehicle; and (ii) the May 14, 2015 order,
mandating the return of the vehicle to Husband's
possession. Additionally, Husband claimed that Sampson owed
him attorney fees under OCGA § 13-6-11 "for having
to pursue this action."
superior court granted Husband's motions. In an order
entered August 7, 2015 (hereinafter, "Money Damages