Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Burton v. ECI Management Corp.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

June 27, 2018

BURTON
v.
ECI MANAGEMENT CORPORATION.

          MCFADDEN, P. J., RAY and RICKMAN, JJ.

          McFadden, Presiding Judge.

         This appeal is from an order granting a defense motion for summary judgment and denying plaintiff's motion to withdraw admissions. Because there are no genuine issues of material fact as to an essential element of plaintiff's claim and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to withdraw admissions, we affirm.

         "On 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." Bank of America, N. A. v. Cuneo, 332 Ga.App. 73, 74 (770 S.E.2d 48) (2015) (citation and punctuation omitted). So viewed, the evidence shows that on September 29, 2015, Georgean Burton, a resident of The Columns of White Oaks Apartments in Newnan, requested that the stove in her apartment be repaired. That same day, a maintenance employee at the complex made repairs to the stove in Burton's apartment. After the repairs were complete, Burton turned on the stove to bake something. A few minutes later, Burton opened the stove door and a cloud of thick smoke billowed out of the stove. Burton reported the smoke to apartment management. The maintenance employee returned to the apartment and found that a piece of rubber or plastic had fallen off his wire cutters into the broiler area of the stove and had caused the smoke.

         On June 23, 2016, Burton filed a complaint against ECI Management Corporation d/b/a The Columns of White Oaks Apartments, claiming that the maintenance employee had left a pair of pliers in the broiler area of the stove and that she had suffered damages as a result of inhaling the smoke from the stove. ECI answered the complaint and, on August 17, 2016, served Burton with discovery requests. The discovery materials included requests that Burton admit that she had no evidence that ECI had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged pliers in the stove, that she had no evidence that ECI had superior knowledge of the alleged hazardous condition, and that she had seen the pliers in the broiler area of the stove prior to the smoking stove incident. Burton did not respond to the discovery requests. On October 5, 2016, ECI notified Burton in writing that her discovery responses were overdue; requested that she provide responses by October 15; and indicated that it would file a motion seeking all available remedies if the responses were not received by that date. Burton did not submit her responses to the discovery requests until October 21, 2016.

         On January 17, 2017, ECI filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that Burton was deemed to have admitted, due to her failure to timely respond to the requests for admissions, that ECI had no actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged hazardous condition, that ECI had no superior knowledge of the alleged hazard, and that she herself had seen the alleged pliers in the broiler area of the stove prior to the smoke incident. On February 24, 2017, Burton filed a motion to withdraw or amend her deemed admissions. After a hearing, the trial court entered an order on June 9, 2017, denying Burton's motion to withdraw her admissions and granting ECI's motion for summary judgment. Burton appeals.

         1. Jurisdiction.

         As an initial matter, we note that contrary to ECI's arguments in its appellate brief, this court has jurisdiction over this appeal. Because the last day to file a notice of appeal from the trial court's June 9, 2017 summary judgment order fell on Sunday July 9, 2017, Burton had until the next Monday, July 10, 2017, to file her appeal. See OCGA §§ 1-3-1 (d) (3) & 9-11-6 (a). Burton did not file a notice of appeal by that date, but did file an application for discretionary appeal on July 10, 2017. She also filed a notice of appeal on July 13, 2017.

         With regard to Burton's application for discretionary appeal, no such application was necessary as the trial court's grant of summary judgment to ECI was directly appealable. See OCGA § 5-6-34 (a) (1), (d); Southeast Ceramics v. Klem, 246 Ga. 294, 294-295 (1) (271 S.E.2d 199) (1980). Because the order was subject to direct appeal and Burton had initiated her appeal by filing an otherwise timely discretionary application, this court granted the application pursuant to OCGA § 5-6-35 (j). The order granting the application was issued on August 1, 2017, and directed Burton to file a notice of appeal within 10 days of the order. As noted above, Burton had already filed a notice of appeal on July 13, 2017. She also filed an untimely amended notice of appeal on August 24, 2017. But that amended notice was unnecessary as the prematurely filed July 13 notice of appeal ripened into a timely notice of appeal upon this court's granting of the discretionary application. See Wright v. Wright, 300 Ga. 114, 115 (1) (793 S.E.2d 96) (2016) (1); Todd v. Todd, 287 Ga. 250, 253 (1) (703 S.E.2d 597) (2010); Mixon v. Mixon, 278 Ga. 446 (1) (603 S.E.2d 287) (2004); Wannamaker v. Carr, 257 Ga. 634, 635 (1) (362 S.E.2d 53) (1987). Accordingly, the appeal is properly before this court.

         2. Motion to withdraw admissions.

         Burton contends that the trial court erred in denying her motion to withdraw admissions. We disagree.

         Because Burton did not respond or object to ECI's requests for admissions within 30 days after service of the requests, the subject matter of each request was deemed admitted under OCGA § 9-11-36 (a) (2). See Ikomoni v. Executive Asset Managment, 309 Ga.App. 81, 83 (1) (709 S.E.2d 282) (2011). "[M]atters deemed admitted under this statute become solemn admissions in judicio and are conclusive as a matter of law on the matters stated and cannot be contradicted by other evidence unless the admissions are withdrawn or amended on formal motion." Fulton County v. SOCO Contracting Co., 343 Ga.App. 889, 896 (2) (808 S.E.2d 891) (2017) (citation and punctuation omitted).

Under OCGA § 9-11-36 (b), the trial court is vested with broad discretion to permit withdrawal of an admission made by reason of the failure to make a timely response to the request. On appellate review, the trial court's ruling on this issue may be reversed only upon a showing of abuse of discretion. A trial court may permit withdrawal of admissions if both: (1) the presentation of the merits of the action will be subserved by the withdrawal; and (2) the party who obtained the admission fails to satisfy the court that withdrawal will prejudice him in maintaining his action or defense on the merits. In order to show that the presentation of the merits of this case would be subserved by the withdrawal, [the movant must] establish that the admitted requests either could have been refuted on trial of the issues by admissible evidence having a modicum of credibility or that the admitted requests were incredible on their face; and that the denials being tendered to the court with the motion to withdraw had not been offered solely for purposes of delay.

Parham v. Weldon, 333 Ga.App. 744, 746 (1) (776 S.E.2d 826) (2015) (citations and punctuation omitted). "If the movant satisfies the court on the first prong, the burden is on the respondent to satisfy the second prong. Both prongs must be established, pursuant to the standard provided in OCGA § 9-11-36 (b)." Fulton ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.