Before the trial on your breach of contract claim starts, there is much work that must be done beforehand to make sure your side has all the information, no matter how great or small, that’s needed for success. When it comes time to do that pre-trial work, make sure you have retained the services of an experienced Atlanta commercial litigation attorney. Your knowledgeable legal team will understand that, sometimes, details that may seem insignificant are actually extremely important.
As an example, we can look at this recent case involving a contract dispute between a Forsyth County apartment complex owner and the Gwinnett County contracting firm it hired to do renovation work on its complex in southwest Atlanta.
A lot of contract dispute cases may be decided on resolution of factual matters (“Did the service provider receive payment or not?”) or else resolution of legal questions (“Did the service provider’s misconduct meet all the elements of a breach under Georgia law?”), but some cases — like this one — can be profoundly influenced by details that, to the untrained eye, might seem trivial.
The owner, in its lawsuit, alleged multiple claims, including breach of contract and fraud. The contractor countersued, alleging breach of contract and multiple other claims of its own. The owner moved for summary judgment seeking to have all the contractor’s counterclaims thrown out.
In a lot of circumstances, a summary judgment motion can be relatively difficult to win. You have to show that there is no possible set of facts upon which the other side can succeed. That’s usually a pretty high standard. This apartment complex owner’s legal team, however, had done their “homework” and knew they had a very powerful extra piece of evidence: the contractor was not a licensed contractor in the State of Georgia.
That fact made a very big difference. The owner argued, and the appeals court agreed, that this fact entitled the owner to a summary judgment eliminating all of the contractor’s counterclaims. O.C.G.A. Section 43-41-17(a) plainly states that no one shall “engage in the business of general contracting without a current, valid general contractor license issued by the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors.” Section 43-41-17(b) lays out one of the penalties that goes along with engaging in unlicensed contractor work, stating that any contract “between an owner and a contractor who does not have a valid and current license required for such work… shall be unenforceable… by the unlicensed contractor.”
The unlicensed contractor statute does carve out an exception in Section 43-41-17(g) that’s known as the “repair rule,” to which this contractor unsuccessfully attempted to avail itself. The problem for the contractor was that Subsection (g)(1) specifically requires the unlicensed party to disclose in writing to the owner that it was “not licensed as a residential or general contractor under this chapter.” Because there was no proof that the contractor ever made any such written disclosure to the owner in this case, the contractor was not entitled to use the repair exception and therefore not entitled to pursue its counterclaims against the owner.
A contractor’s status with the State Licensing Board might seem like a small detail, but, as you can see, it made a very big difference in this property owner’s breach of contract case. When you are pursuing a commercial litigation matter, it pays to have a detail-oriented legal team that “sweats the small stuff.” For that kind of diligent representation, rely on the skilled contract litigation attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation and find how you can put the power of this office to work for you.