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Baja Properties, LLC v. Mattera

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

March 9, 2018

BAJA PROPERTIES, LLC
v.
MATTERA et al. MATERRA
v.
GOLDEN et al.

          BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and MERCIER, JJ.

          Mercier, Judge.

         These consolidated appeals involve disputes related to the construction of a house in Cumming, Georgia. In September 2013, Ugo Mattera entered into a written construction contract with Baja Properties, LLC.; Stephen Chad Golden, the sole owner of Baja Properties, signed the contract and addendums on Baja Properties's behalf. Pursuant to the contract, Baja Properties agreed to build a house for Ugo Mattera on land he and Kellie Mattera owned. Baja Properties completed some of the construction, but disputes developed and Ugo Mattera terminated the contract before the house was completed. Stephen Golden did not have a Georgia builder's or contractor's license when the parties entered into the contract or when the work was performed.

         In February 2015, Baja Properties sued the Matteras for breach of contract, quantum meruit, and claim of lien. The Matteras answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim for breach of contract and negligence. Ugo Mattera then filed a separate action against Stephen Golden and James Golden (as alleged owners and/or managers of Baja Properties), [1] asserting claims for negligence and fraud. The trial court consolidated the two cases.

         The Matteras moved for summary judgment on Baja Properties's claims against them, asserting that OCGA § 43-41-17 (b) bars an unlicensed contractor from enforcing in law or equity a contract for the performance of work for which a license is required. The trial court granted the Matteras' motion for summary judgment on all of Baja Properties's claims, finding that the claims were barred by OCGA § 43-41-17 (b).

          Baja Properties moved for summary judgment on the Matteras' counterclaims claims against it and the Matteras' claims against the Goldens. The court found that, although OCGA § 43-41-17 (b) barred Baja Properties from enforcing the construction contract against the Matteras, Baja Properties was entitled to rely on the contract terms to defend the breach of contract claims asserted against it. The court concluded that Baja Properties was entitled to summary judgment on the Matteras' breach of contract claims because Ugo Mattera had improperly terminated the contract, and that Baja Properties and the Goldens were entitled to summary judgment on the Matteras' fraud claims because the Matteras had not pointed to evidence of each element of fraud. The trial court denied the Goldens' motion for summary judgment on negligence claims that Ugo Mattera asserted against the Goldens in their personal capacities.

         In Case No. A17A1875, Baja Properties appeals the grant of summary judgment to the Matteras, and the Goldens appeal the denial of their motion for summary judgment on the negligence claims asserted against them. In Case No. A17A1976, Ugo Mattera appeals the grant of summary judgment to the Goldens on his fraud claims. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment in Case No. A17A1875, and we affirm the judgment in Case No. A17A1976.

Case No. A17A1875

         1. Baja Properties contends that the trial court erred by holding that the claims it asserts against the Matteras are barred by OCGA § 43-41-17 (b), when its claims come within an exemption set out in OCGA § 43-41-17 (h). The contention is without merit.

[O]n appeal from the grant of summary judgment, [the appellate court] conducts a de novo review of the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, warrant judgment as a matter of law.

Boyd v. JohnGalt Holdings, LLC, 294 Ga. 640, 644 (4) (755 S.E.2d 675) (2014) (citation and punctuation omitted).

         OCGA § 43-41-17 (a) provides, in pertinent part, that no person shall have the right to engage in the business of residential or general contracting without a current valid contractor license. OCGA § 43-41-17 (b) provides:

As a matter of public policy, any contract entered into on or after July 1, 2008, for the performance of work for which a residential contractor or general contractor license is required by this chapter and not otherwise exempted under this chapter and which is between an owner and a contractor who does not have a valid and current license required for such work in accordance with this chapter shall be unenforceable in law or in equity by the unlicensed contractor....Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, if a contract is rendered unenforceable under this subsection, no lien or bond ...

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