CHEATHAM FLETCHER SCOTT ARCHITECTS, P.C.
HULL 2000, LLLP. CHEATHAM FLETCHER SCOTT ARCHITECTS, P.C.
HULL 2000, LLLP.
P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.
consolidated appeals arise from a defense verdict following a
consolidated bench trial on two separate but related breach
of contract actions. In 2014, defendant Hull 2000, LLLP
("Hull"), hired plaintiff Cheatham Fletcher Scott
Architects, P. C. ("CFS"), to perform architectural
and interior design services to assist Hull in building a
"hospitality house" in Augusta. Following a dispute
about fee payment, CFS sued Hull in the Civil Court of
Richmond County,  filing two actions based on the two
separate design agreements. Civil Action No. 301021 (now
Court of Appeals Case No. A19A1557 or "Interior Design
Case") asserted claims seeking (a) payment of fees for
interior design services, (b) foreclosure of a claim of lien
(abandoned at trial), and (c) attorney fees; Civil Action No.
301022 (now Court of Appeals Case No. A19A1558 or
"Architectural Design Case") asserted related
claims for (a) payment of fees for architectural design
services, (b) foreclosure of a claim of lien (abandoned at
trial), and (c) attorney fees.
No. A19A1557, Hull filed an answer and counterclaim seeking
recoupment of additional money spent to hire another firm to
do the interior design work CFS allegedly failed to complete.
In Case No. A19A1558, Hull filed an answer and counterclaim
seeking recoupment of money it had to spend to build a $55,
000 brick wall to comply with changes CFS allegedly adopted
before the local Historic Preservation Commission without
Hull's permission. In both cases, Hull also
counterclaimed for attorney fees.
a joint bench trial on both cases, the civil court entered an
order consolidating its factual findings and conclusions of
law, and entering separate judgments as follows: in the
Interior Design Case (Case No. A19A1557), against CFS and in
favor of Hull in the principal amount of $8, 300 plus $7, 500
in attorney fees; and in the Architectural Design Case (Case
No. A19A1558), against CFS and in favor of Hull in the
principal amount of $44, 000 plus $7, 500 in attorney fees.
CFS now appeals, and for the reasons that follow, we affirm
in part and reverse in part in Case No. A19A0557, and vacate
the judgment in Case No. A19A1558 and remand with direction.
case, CFS contends that the civil court erred by (1) awarding
Hull attorney fees of $7, 500 pursuant to OCGA §
13-6-11, (2) finding in favor of Hull on its substantive
counterclaim, (3) denying CFS's right to have the final
closing argument, and (4) finding that Hull had not breached
its agreement with CFS.
Attorney fee award to Hull.
counterclaim sought an attorney fee award under OCGA §
13-6-11 based on CFS's alleged bad faith, stubborn
litigiousness, and conduct causing Hull unnecessary trouble
and expense. The civil court's order awarded Hull $7, 500
pursuant to OCGA § 13-6-11 based on the fact that Hull
had moved for summary judgment on CFS's lien claim on the
ground that CFS did not comply with a statutory notice
requirement,  and CFS did not abandon its flawed lien
claim until the day of the trial. We note that CFS's
response to the summary judgment motion was not due until the
day it withdrew its claim.Nevertheless, pretermitting whether this
could be considered sanctionable conduct, the trial
court's attorney fee award was improper because it was
predicated on misconduct that occurred in the course of the
litigation, as opposed to in the underlying
[T]wo statutes, OCGA § 9-15-14 and § 13-6-11, . . .
allow for awards of attorney fees based on entirely different
categories of sanctionable conduct. On the one hand, OCGA
§ 9-15-14 applies to conduct occurring during the
litigation. OCGA § 13-6-11, on the other hand,
permits an award of attorney fees where the defendant has
acted in bad faith, has been stubbornly litigious, or has
caused the plaintiff unnecessary trouble and expense. It
applies to conduct arising from the underlying
record is clear that Hull sought attorney fees pursuant to
OCGA § 13-6-11, and the civil court made its award
explicitly under that Code section. But the allegedly
sanctionable conduct cited by the civil court in its order
occurred as part of the litigation, i.e., in the 30 days
leading up to trial. Therefore, a fee award under OCGA §
13-6-11 was not authorized because that Code section
addresses conduct that arises from the underlying
transaction, and we reverse the award in this
Challenge to $8, 300 counterclaim award in favor of
next assigns as error the award to Hull on its counterclaim
for breach of contract, challenging the sufficiency of the
On appellate review of a bench trial, the factual findings
shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due
regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court
to judge the credibility of the witnesses. In bench trials,
the judge sits as trier of fact, and the court's findings
are analogous to a jury's verdict and should not be
disturbed if there is any evidence to support
"[w]e construe the evidence in favor of the
viewed, the record shows that Hull hired CFS to provide
interior design services for a hospitality house Hull desired
to build to host guests for the 2015 Masters golf tournament.
The interior design services included work such as producing
a furniture plan, establishing a budget for furniture and
fixtures, selecting finish and hard surface materials,
selecting lighting, coordinating closet designs, and
coordinating kitchen appliance selection and installation.
CFS initially proposed a flat fee of $45, 000 for its
services, but later agreed to a reduced fee of $35, 000. The
agreement was not reduced to a single formal written
document; rather, it was memorialized by a letter, telephone
calls, and other correspondence.
CFS began some of this work, Hull was not satisfied with the
choices made or services provided by CFS, and CFS ultimately
elected not to perform any more interior design services for
the project. CFS sent Hull an invoice for 30 percent of the
agreed-upon fee, estimating that it had performed 30 percent
of the interior ...