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Restor-IT, Inc. v. Beck

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Third Division

October 28, 2019


          DILLARD, P. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.

          HODGES, JUDGE.

          This appeal involves a suit for breach of contract, quantum meruit, open account, and attorney fees filed by Restor-It, Inc. against Ashlyn Beck following remodeling work Restor-It performed for Beck. The trial court granted summary judgment to Beck on all claims, and Restor-It appeals. Because the trial court properly concluded that Restor-It's performance of electrical and plumbing work without a license, as required by OCGA § 43-14-8, voided the contract, we affirm.

         Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. OCGA § 9-11-56 (c).

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.

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Baja Properties v. Mattera, 345 Ga.App. 101, 102 (1) (812 S.E.2d 358) (2018); see also Wagner v. Robinson, 329 Ga.App. 169 (764 S.E.2d 189) (2014).

         Viewed in that light, the record shows the following facts. Restor-It is a company that provides cleaning, painting, maintenance, and renovation services. In October 2014, Beck contacted Restor-It to provide an estimate for the repair and gut-renovation of a master bathroom, dryer vent repair, and installation of hardwood flooring. She claims "Restor-It affirmatively represented . . . that they held a valid general contractor's license[, ]" though Restor-It asserts it "never stated, in writing or orally, that Restor-It had a valid general or residential contractor's license." In fact, Restor-It admits it is not a licensed general or residential contractor and only holds a business license.

         On January 14, 2015, Beck signed a contact with Restor-It for the bathroom renovation and construction, as well as other items. The agreement stated that Restor-It was "Fully Licensed and Insured." The estimate for the job totaled $23, 545.16, and Beck made a down payment of $11, 700.00. The invoice recapped the job by category and indicated that 2.12% of the total job consisted of electrical work and 18.74% of the job consisted of plumbing work. It is undisputed that Restor-It performed electrical and plumbing work during the course of the project.

         Restor-It ultimately abandoned the project following a leak that led to severe flooding damage. Asserting it performed additional duties outside the contract in an effort to mitigate the water damage, Restor-It provided Beck with a final invoice for services totaling $44, 891.66. The recap of job categories on this invoice indicated that 2.50% of the total job was dedicated to electrical work and 14.36% of the total job was dedicated to plumbing work.

         On May 26, 2017, Restor-It sued Beck, seeking to recover the difference between its final invoice and the down payment made by Beck ($33, 191.66), pre and post judgment interest, and attorney fees. Beck subsequently moved for summary judgment, claiming she was not liable because Restor-It did not possess the licenses required under Georgia law for the work it performed, therefore making the contract void and unenforceable. Restor-It argued that it was acting as a specialty contractor, exempt from licensing requirements. The trial court granted Beck's motion for summary judgment, specifically finding that the agreement between Beck and Restor-It "plainly lists extensive and detailed electrical and plumbing work costing thousands of dollars[, ]" that Restor-It failed to demonstrate that the work was performed by licensed electrical and plumbing contractors, and that, therefore, the contract between Beck and Restor-It was void and unenforceable. Restor-It appeals.

         Although Restor-It raises a number of arguments on appeal, the main issues before us are whether the trial court properly found that Restor-It performed electrical and plumbing work, whether Restor-It was exempt from the requirement that it be licensed to perform such work, and whether the contract between Restor-It and Beck is void based on Restor-It's performance of such work. To answer these questions, we must look to the applicable statutes and construe them according to our rules of statutory construction.

         At the outset, we note that the interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which is "reviewed de novo on appeal." (Punctuation omitted.) Brantley Land & Timber, LLC v. W & D Investments, Inc., 316 Ga.App. 277, 279 (729 S.E.2d 458) (2012). "Indeed, when only a question of law is at issue, as here, we owe no deference to the trial court's ruling and apply the plain legal error standard of review." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Kemp v. Kemp, 337 Ga.App. 627, 632 (788 S.E.2d 517) (2016). And when interpreting any statute, "we necessarily begin our analysis with familiar and binding canons of construction." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Id. In considering the meaning of a statute, our charge as an appellate court is to "presume that the General Assembly meant what it said and said what it meant." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Holcomb v. Long, 329 Ga.App. 515, 517 (1) (765 S.E.2d 687) (2014); accord Deal v. Coleman, 294 Ga. 170, 172 (1) (a) (751 S.E.2d 337) (2013). Toward that end,

we must afford the statutory text its plain and ordinary meaning, consider the text contextually, read the text in its most natural and reasonable way, as an ordinary speaker of the English language would, and seek to avoid a construction that makes some language mere surplusage.

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Holcomb, 329 Ga.App. at 517-518 (1); accord Deal, 294 Ga. at 172-173 (1) (a). Further, when the language of a statute is "plain and susceptible to only one natural and reasonable construction, courts must construe the statute accordingly." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Holcomb, 329 Ga.App. at 518 (1) (punctuation omitted); see Deal, 294 Ga. at 173 (1) (a) ("[I]f the statutory text is clear and unambiguous, we attribute to the statute its plain meaning, and our search for statutory meaning is at an end.") (punctuation omitted). Put another way, "[a]s long as the language is clear and does not lead to an unreasonable or absurd result, it is the sole evidence of the ultimate legislative intent." (Punctuation omitted; emphasis supplied.) Ray v. Barber, 273 Ga. 856, 856 (1) (548 S.E.2d 283) (2001); accord Shorter College v. Baptist Convention of Ga., 279 Ga. 466, 470 (1) (614 S.E.2d 37) (2005).

         The statutes at issue in this case are included in Chapter 41 of Title 43 of the Georgia Code, which provides a broad statewide licensing system for residential and general contractors, and Chapter 14 of Title 43, which provides a statewide licensing system specifically for electrical ...

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