DILLARD, P. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.
appeal, we must decide whether Sandra Ward-Poag's failure
to disclose a whistleblower claim against Fulton County in her
petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy until after the County
moved for summary judgment in the whistleblower action
precludes her claim under the doctrine of judicial estoppel.
The Superior Court of Fulton County granted the County's
summary judgment motion, finding that Ward-Poag was
"judicially estopped from proceeding in [her] case"
because her failure to disclose the claim was "intended
to deceive her creditors and that her behavior has made a
mockery of both this Court and the Bankruptcy Court."
Ward-Poag appeals, arguing that the trial court erred because
(1) her positions in the bankruptcy court and the trial court
were not inconsistent, introduced no risk of inconsistent
results, and did not threaten judicial integrity in view of
her amended bankruptcy schedule disclosing her claim against
the County; and (2) genuine issues of material fact remained
concerning the County's argument that she intended to
make a mockery of the judicial system. For the following
reasons, we reverse.
Under Georgia law,
[s]ummary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue
of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. A de novo standard of review applies to an
appeal from a grant or denial of summary judgment, and we
view the evidence, and all reasonable conclusions and
inferences drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the
(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Kamara v.
Henson, 340 Ga.App. 111 (796 S.E.2d 496) (2017). So
viewed, the record reveals that the County hired Ward-Poag as
the entertainment manager for the Wolf Creek Amphitheater in
2012. In May 2013, Ward-Poag filed a voluntary
petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which was confirmed in
March 2014 and required a payment plan that would conclude in
her bankruptcy petition was pending, Ward-Poag alleged
numerous instances from September 2015 to August 2016 in
which a Fulton County commissioner attempted to use the
amphitheater for his private gain, including repeated demands
for dates to promote his own concerts. Ward-Poag rejected the
commissioner's requests and, as a result, she alleged
that she was demoted and faced other forms of retaliation by
the commissioner. In August 2016, Ward-Poag sent ante litem
notice of her whistleblower claim to the County. Thereafter,
she filed the action at issue in this appeal in October
September 5, 2017, the County filed a motion for summary
judgment, arguing, inter alia, that judicial estoppel barred
Ward-Poag's claim because she failed to disclose her
cause of action against the County as an asset in her
bankruptcy proceeding. Thereafter, Ward-Poag filed an amended
bankruptcy schedule on October 2, 2017, in which she
identified her cause of action against the County as an
asset; the value listed for the claim was
$1.00. The trial court held a hearing on the
County's motion on October 17, 2017, and orally granted
the County's motion. Following additional briefing by the
parties, the trial court entered a written order granting the
County's motion on May 22, 2018 in which it relied upon
Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir.
2017) and concluded that Ward-Poag "intended to deceive
her creditors and that her behavior has made a mockery of
both this Court and the Bankruptcy Court." This appeal
Ward-Poag first argues that the trial court erred in granting
the County's motion for summary judgment because her
positions in the bankruptcy court and the trial court were
not inconsistent, introduced no risk of inconsistent results,
and did not threaten judicial integrity given her amended
bankruptcy schedule disclosing her claim against the County.
Georgia courts follow the federal doctrine of judicial
estoppel. See Nat. Bldg. Maintenance Specialists v.
Hayes, 288 Ga.App. 25, 26 (653 S.E.2d 772) (2007).
"Under the doctrine, a party is precluded from asserting
a position in a judicial proceeding which is inconsistent
with a position previously successfully
asserted by it in a prior proceeding."
(Emphasis supplied.) Id.
The essential function and justification of judicial estoppel
is to prevent the use of intentional self-contradiction as a
means of obtaining unfair advantage in a forum provided for
suitors seeking justice. The primary purpose of the doctrine
is not to protect the litigants, but to protect the integrity
of the judiciary. The doctrine is directed against those who
would attempt to manipulate the court system through the
calculated assertion of divergent sworn positions in judicial
proceedings and is designed to prevent parties from making a
mockery of justice through inconsistent pleadings.
(Citation omitted.) Kamara, supra, 340 Ga.App. at
112 (1); accord Johnson v. Trust Co. Bank,
223 Ga.App. 650, 651 (478 S.E.2d 629) (1996).
the doctrine is commonly applied to preclude a bankruptcy
debtor from pursuing a damages claim that [she] failed to
include in [her] assets in the bankruptcy petition because a
failure to reveal assets, including unliquidated tort claims,
operates as a denial that such assets exist, deprives the
bankruptcy court of the full information it needs to evaluate
and rule upon a ...