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Making Certain You Are Prepared to Deal With All of Potentially Unique Aspects of Your Breach of Contract Case in Georgia

Poole Huffman, LLC

In any commercial contract dispute, details matter. The difference between defeat and success can be just one word that was excluded or included in your agreement, or it could be a statutory obligation your case triggered that you didn’t know existed. That’s why you need more than just mere legal representation; you need a knowledgeable Atlanta commercial litigation attorney who is fully versed on all the ins, outs and nuances your case can implicate.

A breach of contract case from here in North Georgia is a good example. The underlying contract involved a Marietta-based property owner that leased its property to various businesses, including a gas station in Norcross. The contract between the two sides stated that the lessor and the lessee would share the earnings that the machines generated on a 50-50 basis.

In a lot of circumstances, any dispute that arose between the two LLCs would have been resolved through ordinary civil litigation. This was not one of those circumstances. The machines whose earnings generated this dispute were “coin-operated amusement machines,” which are regulated by the Georgia Lottery Commission (GLC).

That last part was the most important piece. Instead of going through the regular civil litigation channels to resolve a contract dispute, parties to a contract related to these types of machines must instead proceed in a specific and different way.

The lessor, who accused the lessee of failing to pay the full share owed under the agreement, began by filing a claim with the GLC. That was the correct move as an administrative action with the GLC was the required place to start. Unfortunately for the lessor, the hearing officer ruled in favor of the lessee, and the lessor’s procedural problems subsequently ensued.

After its defeat in the GLC hearing, the lessor took its case to the superior court. That part was correct as, when you’ve lost before an administrative agency, the correct next step is to proceed to the superior court in Fulton County.

Failing to name the GLC as a defendant was a fatal error

What the lessor did not do correctly, however, was naming all the parties who were defendants. The statutory framework for appealing decisions by the GLC clearly demands that the appealing party not only bring an action in the superior court in Fulton County but to name both the opposing party and the commission as defendants. In this case, the lessor named only the lessee as a defendant.

As the Court of Appeals explained, the GLC’s rules and regulations “establish how decisions are contested and appealed.” Georgia law says that it is the party pursuing an appeal who bears the burden of ensuring that the commission files an answer to the petition and does it before the deadline. The way you do that is by naming the commission as a defendant, which is something this lessor didn’t do.

When you err in completing that step, what generally happens is that the commission does not file a timely answer and, when that happens, the appeal is deemed dismissed.

Your breach of contract case may not involve any coin-operated machines regulated by the Georgia Lottery Commission, but, inevitably, it will come with its own various twists, turns and unique elements. You need legal counsel that is truly experienced and prepared to deal with whatever quirks or unique requirements your case throws out. Rely on the skilled contract dispute attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC to provide you with that sort of diligent and powerful advocacy. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation.

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