NUGENT et al.
P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.
appeals proceed from the trial court's orders on opposing
motions for partial summary judgment in an action for legal
malpractice and other torts. Alexandra Myles sued Kenneth S.
Nugent, Kenneth S. Nugent, P. C., and Nugent Law Firm, LLC
(collectively, "Nugent"), along with her attorney,
Christopher Warren,  for allegedly failing to litigate, and
ultimately settling without her consent, her claims arising
from an automobile collision with a City of Smithville
("City") employee. In Case No. A19A0162, Nugent
appeals the trial court's denial of its motion for
partial summary judgment on the issue of the legality of the
engagement contract between Kenneth S. Nugent, P. C.
("Nugent, P. C.") and Myles; and the grant of
Myles's motion for partial summary judgment, finding that
Myles's underlying personal injury claims against the
City were settled in full. In Case No. A19A0871, Warren
appeals the trial court's order as to the settlement
issue only. We consolidated the cases for our review. Finding
no error in Case No. A19A0162, we affirm. We likewise affirm
the trial court's order in Case No. A19A0871.
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine
issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. In reviewing the grant or denial of a
motion for summary judgment, we apply a de novo standard of
review, and we view the evidence, and all reasonable
conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in the light most
favorable to the nonmovant.
(Citation omitted.) Grizzle v. Norsworthy, 292
Ga.App. 303, 303-304 (664 S.E.2d 296) (2008).
viewed, the record reflects that, in January 2011, Myles was
injured in a vehicle collision with a City employee. Days
later, Myles retained Nugent, P. C. to litigate her claims
arising from the collision, and signed an engagement
contract. The firm assigned one of its attorneys, Warren, to
March 2011, Warren sent an ante litem notice to the City, as
required by OCGA § 36-33-5. In December 2011, Warren
sent the City's insurance adjuster a demand letter,
indicating that Myles's total medical expenses were $10,
327.76. Warren and the adjuster negotiated a potential
settlement throughout the latter half of 2012, and, in
January 2013, the adjuster made an offer in the amount of
March 2013, Warren met with Myles to discuss the pending
offer, which Myles expressly rejected. During this meeting,
Warren realized that he made a mistake and had not filed a
complaint before the two-year statute of limitations had
Warren advised Myles that there had been a mistake and ended
the meeting. Warren then notified Kenneth Nugent of his
Myles's refusal to settle, and without her permission, a
week later, Warren accepted an offer in the amount of
Myles's medical expenses, $10, 327.76. Warren asked the
adjuster to issue the check immediately, which she did, along
with a release of the claims for Myles to sign and return.
The check indicated that it was for "full and final
settlement of all bodily injury claims," whereas the
release covered all claims arising from the accident,
including personal injury and property damage. Unaware that
Warren had accepted the settlement, Myles hired new counsel
and terminated Warren and Nugent's representation on
March 29, 2013. However, in June 2013, Nugent P. C. deposited
the check into its escrow account. It is undisputed that
Myles did not endorse the check, but that someone at Nugent
P. C. signed her name to it. The release was never signed.
sued Nugent and Warren, bringing fifteen claims against them,
including legal malpractice, Georgia RICO Act violations,
conspiracy, conversion, forgery, fraud and breach of
fiduciary duty. Viewed in its entirety, the complaint, as
amended, attacks Nugent's business model, including its
advertising practices and, as Myles repeatedly characterizes
it, the "illegal" engagement contract.
response to this description of the engagement contract,
Nugent moved for partial summary judgment, seeking a
determination that the engagement contract was legal. Myles
moved for partial summary judgment, seeking a ruling that
Warren had settled and released her claims against the City
and its employee. Following a hearing, the trial court denied
partial summary judgment to Nugent, and granted partial
summary judgment to Myles on the ground that Warren had
settled Myles's case. These appeals followed.
Nugent argues that the trial court erred when it denied
Nugent's motion for partial summary judgment on the
ground that it was not a proper vehicle to decide whether ...