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How Changes in Georgia Statutory Law Can Play an Important Role in Your Commercial Contract Case

Poole Huffman, LLC

There are lots of ways that a knowledgeable Atlanta commercial litigation attorney can help your Georgia case. Some are things that you probably can identify readily, while others are less obvious. For example, what if a statute that impacts your case gets changed by the legislature while your lawsuit is going on? What happens then? You reasonably might not know, but rest assured that your experienced lawyer will, and will know how to use that change to your optimal benefit.

That’s exactly what happened in one breach of contract case from Savannah. A large manufacturer and supplier of industrial-use sulfuric acid sued the Tampa, Florida-based contractor it hired to renovate a storage tank at the supplier’s Savannah facility.

Allegedly, the Florida firm committed multiple errors, resulting in sulfuric acid leaking from the base of the tank. The Florida entity did its work from 2000 until January 2002. The supplier discovered the leak almost 10 years later, in July 2011. It filed suit in January 2012.

In that 2012 complaint, the supplier asserted numerous claims against the contractor. One of those was breach of contract. As you can see, this was fully 10 years after the contractor finished the job.

Here in Georgia, there may be multiple deadlines that can impact your case. Miss any one of them and it can destroy your case. Most people have heard of a “statute of limitations,” which is one law that imposes a deadline on suing and seeking compensation. For some cases, though, that law isn’t the only deadline that applies. The “statute of repose” may also come into play and failing to satisfy it can also demolish a plaintiff’s case.

In fact, in this case, the contractor initially was successful in defeating the supplier’s breach of contract claim based upon the supplier’s failure to file before the statute of repose’s deadline had passed.

A Statutory Amendment Has a Massive Impact

But then there was a plot twist. The Georgia Legislature passed a new law that said that the statute of repose for improvements to real property “shall not apply to actions for breach of contract, including, but not limited to, actions for breach of express contractual warranties.” That new law became effective July 1, 2020, while the supplier’s case was still winding through the appeals courts.

Because the new change to the statute of repose was now the controlling law, the supplier’s legal team recognized that the statute of repose didn’t apply to the supplier’s case at all and could not be a basis for throwing out the breach of contract claim.

The contractor attempted to rely on the statute of limitations but, according to the Court of Appeals, the supplier’s filing was timely under those requirements. That deadline period for filing a breach of contract lawsuit did not even start until the supplier discovered the breach. Because the supplier discovered the leak in July 2011 and sued just six months later in January 2012, it was timely under that statute. So, considering the change in the law, the supplier’s lawsuit was filed on time and it could proceed with its breach of contract claim.

Your commercial contract case can have many twists and turns. Make sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way by having the knowledgeable legal counsel you need. Count on the experienced Atlanta commercial litigation attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC to have the “know-how” to advocate for you powerfully and effectively and get you to the positive outcome you deserve. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation.

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