Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC, 345 Ga.App. 739 (813
S.E.2d 441) (2018), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial
court's grant of summary judgment in favor of MP Spring
Lake ("Spring Lake") on two premises-liability tort
claims brought by Pamela Langley. Langley petitioned for
certiorari, which we granted, posing the following two
questions: (1) Does the "Limitations on Actions"
provision of Langley's lease contract apply to her
premises-liability tort action against MP Spring Lake, LLC?;
and (2) If so, is that provision enforceable?
reasons explained below, we conclude that the provision is
not applicable to Langley's premises-liability tort
action against Spring Lake. We therefore reverse the judgment
of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further
proceedings. In light of that conclusion, we do not reach the
forth by the Court of Appeals in a light most favorable to
Langley, the facts of this case are as follows:
[Langley] filed suit against Spring Lake on March 3, 2016,
alleging that on March 3, 2014, while a lawful tenant of
Spring Lake Apartments in Morrow, Georgia, she fell in a
common area of the complex when her foot got caught and slid
on a crumbling portion of curb. She later made claims of
negligence and negligence per se due to Spring Lake's
alleged failure to repair the curb despite being aware of its
Spring Lake asserted, as one of its defenses, that
Langley's claims were barred by a contractual limitation
period contained within her lease. Spring Lake then moved for
summary judgment on this basis, arguing that, because
Langley's lease contained a one-year limitation period
for legal actions and she filed her complaint two years after
the injury occurred, her claim was time-barred. More
specifically, Spring Lake argued that because Langley's
claims accrued on March 3, 2014, when she fell, she was
required by her lease to file suit on or before March 3,
The lease at issue was entered into on May 7, 2013, with an
effective period of June 5, 2013, to June 4, 2014. In the
thirty-third paragraph of the lease, the agreement provides:
Limitation on Actions. To the extent allowed by law, Resident
also agrees and understands that any legal action against
Management or Owner must be instituted within one year of the
date any claim or cause of action arises and that any action
filed after one year from such date shall be time barred as a
matter of law [the "Limitation Provision"].
In response to Spring Lake's motion for summary judgment,
Langley argued that (1) the [Limitation Provision] was too
ambiguous to be enforceable; (2) the [Limitation Provision]
was only applicable to actions that arose from the contract
itself, not an unrelated personal-injury action; (3) Spring
Lake was estopped from relying upon the [Limitation
Provision] due to statements made by representatives of
Spring Lake's insurance carrier both before and after the
expiration of the one-year period; and (4) it was
fundamentally unfair to enforce the [Limitation Provision]
because neither party was even aware of its existence.
The trial court rejected Langley's arguments and granted
Spring Lake's motion for summary judgment, concluding
that the provision was enforceable. Specifically, the court
found that Langley's personal-injury claims were
time-barred because she filed suit after the expiration of
the one-year contractual limitation period.
Langley, 345 Ga.App. at 739-740.
Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's grant of
summary judgment, holding that the Limitation Provision
applied to Langley's premises-liability tort action.
Id. at 743. The Court of Appeals determined that the
language of the Limitation Provision was clear and
unambiguous, which foreclosed it being read, as Langley
urged, to apply only to actions arising from the lease
itself. In reaching this decision, the Court of Appeals
focused on the phrase "any legal action," summarily
concluding that, "[a]lthough the language of the . . .
[Limitation Provision] is broad and does not explicitly
specify that it includes personal injury actions, it
nevertheless encompasses any legal action Langley
might have instituted against the owner or management of her
apartment complex." (Emphasis in original.) Id.
support of this conclusion, the Court of Appeals noted that
"contractual-limitation-period clauses are enforceable
in Georgia" and that "Langley [pointed] to no
supporting authority that holds such provisions are
inapplicable to personal-injury actions." Id.
at 742-743. But in so holding, the Court of Appeals relied
upon cases interpreting time-limitation provisions contained
in insurance policies, in cases involving claims brought
under the policy. See, e.g., Thornton v. Ga.
Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 287 Ga. 379, 380 (1) (695
S.E.2d 642) (2010) (applying contractual time-limitation
provision to suit over denial of coverage under insurance
policy); Rain & Hail Ins. Servs. Inc. v.
Vickery, 274 Ga.App. 424, 425 (1) (618 S.E.2d 111)
(2005) (applying contractual time-limitation provision to
suit over insurer's failure to pay insured's claim);
Dailey v. Cotton States Mut. Ins. Co., 207 Ga.App.
139, 140 (427 S.E.2d 109) (1993) (applying contractual
time-limitation provision to suit over insurer's failure
to investigate insurance claim).
focusing narrowly on the language of the Limitation Provision
without regard to the full context of the lease agreement of
which it was a part, the Court of Appeals' analysis
failed to address the more fundamental problem at issue.
Specifically, the question here is not whether contractual
time-limitation provisions are generally enforceable in this
State; that question is clearly answered in the affirmative
as to claims for breach of contract. Rather, the question is
whether the Limitation Provision agreed to by the parties in
this case, who were at the time ...