Abellera v. Williamson, S00G1957.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtSEARS, Presiding Justice.
Citation553 S.E.2d 806,274 Ga. 324
PartiesABELLERA et al. v. WILLIAMSON et al.
Docket NumberNo. S00G1957.,S00G1957.
Decision Date05 October 2001

553 S.E.2d 806
274 Ga. 324


No. S00G1957.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

October 5, 2001.

Troutman Sanders, Daniel S. Reinhardt, William M. Droze, Atlanta, for appellants.

Ford and Barnhart, James L. Ford Sr., Crowley, Appel, Starkey & Holdbrook, Carl A. Crowley III, Atlanta, for appellees.

SEARS, Presiding Justice.

We granted certiorari in this case to consider two questions.1 One is whether the Court of Appeals, after determining that the trial court's rationale for granting summary judgment was incorrect, erred in failing to apply the "right-for-any-reason" rule and in failing to consider other grounds raised in the motion for summary judgment but not addressed by the trial court. The other question is whether the Court of Appeals correctly determined that a jury question existed on the issue whether the intervening criminal act of a third party was the proximate cause of the injury suffered by appellees. We conclude that the Court of Appeals erred in failing to apply the right-for-any-reason rule, and thus erred in failing to

553 S.E.2d 807
consider the appellants' contention that the trial court correctly granted them summary judgment in this attorney-malpractice action because there was no attorney-client relationship. We therefore remand the case to the Court of Appeals for it to consider that issue. Moreover, we agree with the Court of Appeals's ruling on the proximate cause issue

On May 12, 1997, appellees Elaine Williamson and Lucille Morris agreed to sell real estate located in Flowery Branch, Georgia.2 Appellant Blackburn, Walther & Sloan was selected by the lender to conduct the closing, and appellant Ronald Abellera, an attorney in [274 Ga. 325] the firm, was assigned to the closing. The closing took place on June 6. After the closing documents were signed, Abellera overheard a conversation between the buyers and sellers regarding capital gains taxes, in which Williamson stated that she "dreaded" having to pay capital gains taxes. Abellera then stated that a tax-free, like-kind exchange of property under IRC § 1031 could be completed if the parties were willing to re-sign closing documents. The parties agreed to do so. Abellera told Williamson and Morris that they would have to choose a third-party facilitator and gave them a brochure and letter from Section 1031 Services, Inc., describing the company as an exchange facilitator and a licensed escrow agent. James Gideon was named as the company's president. Abellera told Williamson, "you can call him."

On June 9, Williamson called Gideon and agreed to proceed with the exchange, to use Section 1031 Services as a qualified intermediary/escrow agent, and to use Blackburn, Walther & Sloan, specifically Abellera, as the closing attorney for the § 1031 exchange. Abellera prepared the documents reflecting the § 1031 exchange and charged Williamson and Morris 200 for doing so. After repeated attempts by Williamson and one attempt by Abellera to contact Gideon, it was discovered that Gideon had fled the country with the funds.

Williamson and Morris sued Abellera and Blackburn, Walther & Sloan, alleging that an attorney-client relationship existed, and that they had breached their duty of care by providing legal advice to effect a § 1031 exchange, by recommending Section 1031 Services, and by rendering legal services that resulted in their loss. Appellants moved for summary judgment, asserting that no attorney-client relationship existed and that Gideon's theft of the money was an intervening criminal act. The trial court granted summary judgment to appellants, stating that, although there may be a jury issue as to whether an attorney-client relationship existed, even if the...

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  • CMGRP, Inc. v. Gallant, A17A1168
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 4 Octubre 2017
    ...4.8 Georgia-Pacific, LLC v. Fields, 293 Ga. 499, 504 (2), 748 S.E.2d 407 (2013) (punctuation omitted); see, e.g., Abellera v. Williamson, 274 Ga. 324, 327 (2), 553 S.E.2d 806 (2001) (explaining that when an appellate court determines whether a trial court's judgment was right for any reason......
  • Plantation Pipe Line Co. v. Stonewall Ins. Co., A15A1359.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 20 Noviembre 2015
    ...Ga. 499, 504(2), 748 S.E.2d 407 (2013) ; City of Gainesville v. Dodd, 275 Ga. 834, 839, 573 S.E.2d 369 (2002) ; Abellera v. Williamson, 274 Ga. 324, 326(2), 553 S.E.2d 806 (2001). The record shows the following undisputed facts.The "occurrence" at issue took place on April 2, 1976, when tur......
  • Rogers v. Dupree, A16A1714
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 16 Marzo 2017
    ...had a fair opportunity to respond." Anderson v. Jones, 323 Ga.App. 311, 312, n. 2, 745 S.E.2d 787 (2013). See Abellera v. Williamson, 274 Ga. 324, 326 (2), 553 S.E.2d 806 (2001) ; Worley v. Winter Constr. Co. , 304 Ga.App. 206, 208, 695 S.E.2d 651 (2010). Since the trial court did not err i......
  • Coon v. Med. Ctr., Inc.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 20 Noviembre 2015
    ...(summary judgment will not be affirmed as "right for any reason" based on legal argument never raised below), with Abellera v. Williamson, 274 Ga. 324, 327(2), 553 S.E.2d 806 (2001) (appellate court may determine whether the trial court's grant of summary judgment was right for an alternati......
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