Coin-Op Sols., LLC v. Norcross Convenience, LLC.

Decision Date03 November 2020
Docket NumberA20A1550
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals



Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 3, 2020




NOTICE: Motions for reconsideration must be physically received in our clerk's office within ten days of the date of decision to be deemed timely filed.


COOMER, Judge.

This case concerns an underlying dispute over shared revenue from the operation of coin-operated amusement machines (COAMs), which are regulated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation (the "GLC"). See OCGA § 16-12-35 and OCGA §§ 50-27-70 - 50-27-104. Coin-Op Solutions, LLC ("Coin-Op") seeks our review of the superior court's final order and judgment which affirmed the GLC's hearing officer's decision resolving the underlying dispute in favor of Norcross Convenience, LLC ("Norcross Convenience"). For the reasons set forth below, we vacate the superior court's judgment and remand the case with direction.

The general facts are undisputed. Coin-Op leases COAMs to various convenience stores, and shares the earnings from its machines with store owners. Coin-Op entered a contract to place COAMs at a convenience store owned by Norcross Convenience. The contract required Coin-Op and Norcross Convenience to share the earnings from the COAMs equally. A dispute arose during the contract, and the parties went before the GLC for resolution.

Proceedings before the GLC. Coin-Op filed a dispute with the GLC alleging that Norcross Convenience had failed to pay Coin-Op its full share of the earnings for several years in breach of their contract. On January 29, 2019, the dispute was heard by a GLC-designated hearing officer. On May 20, 2019, the hearing officer issued an order finding in favor of Norcross Convenience. Weeks later, on July 17, 2019, the hearing officer issued a supplemental order awarding attorney fees to Norcross Convenience. Coin-Op filed a request for reconsideration with GLC's CEO on July 5, 2019.[1] Because the CEO did not respond to the request for reconsideration within 30 days, Coin-Op asserted the motion was denied as a matter of law as of August 5, 2019 pursuant to GLC Rule 13.2.5 (1) (b) (4) ("[A] Motion for Review shall be deemed denied if the President/CEO . . . fails to provide a decision to either grant or deny the [motion] within 30 days from receipt[.]").

Proceedings in the superior court. On September 9, 2019, Coin-Op filed a petition to vacate in the superior court challenging the GLC hearing officer's decision. The petition only named Norcross Convenience as a respondent. In response to the petition to vacate, Norcross Convenience filed a motion for summary judgment , as well as petitioned for the confirmation of the hearing officer's rulings. On January 10, 2020, the superior court issued an order granting Norcross Convenience's motion for summary judgment, as well as its petition for confirmation. On February 7, 2020, Coin-Op timely filed a notice of appeal, and the appeal was docketed in this Court.

1. As an initial matter, we note that this Court's

interpretation and application of statutory language is guided by the following principles: A statute draws its meaning, of course, from its text. Under our well-established rules of statutory construction, we presume that the General Assembly meant what it said and said what it meant. To that end, we must afford the statutory text its "plain and ordinary meaning," we must view the statutory text in the context in which it appears, and we must read the statutory text in its most natural and reasonable way, as an ordinary speaker of the English language would. Though we may review the text of the provision in question and its context within the larger legal framework to discern the intent of the legislature in enacting it, where the statutory text is clear and unambiguous, we attribute to the statute its plain meaning, and our search for statutory meaning ends.

Amazing Amusements Group, Inc. v. Wilson, 353 Ga. App. 256, 257-258 (835 SE2d 781) (2019) (citation omitted).

The GLC, which was created by the General Assembly, regulates COAMs through a statutory framework set forth in OCGA §§ 16-12-35, and 50-27-70 to 50-27-104, as well as through its own set of administrative rules.[2] See Amusement Leasing, Inc. v. Ga. Lottery Corp., 352 Ga. App. 243, 243-245 (1) (834 SE2d 330) (2019) ("the GLC . . . administers Georgia's statutory framework applicable to COAMs and COAM businesses. . . . There is created a body corporate and politic to be known as the [GLC] which shall be deemed to be an instrumentality of the state, and not a state agency, and a public corporation." (citations and footnote omitted)). The COAM statutes grant the GLC the authority to adopt rules governing the procedures for resolving disputes between licensees, including appeal rights for licensees who are dissatisfied with the outcomes of the dispute resolution process. OCGA § 50-27-102 (d) (3)-(5). The GLC has exclusive jurisdiction of all disputes between and among any licensees or former licensees whose licenses were issued pursuant to the COAM statutes relating in any way to any agreement involving COAMs, distribution of funds, tortious interference with contract, other claims against a subsequent master license holder or location owner, or any other claim involving coin operated amusement. See OCGA § 50-27-102 (d) (2) ("All disputes subject to the provisions of this Code section certified by a master licensee, location owner, or location operator shall be decided by a hearing officer approved or appointed by [the GLC]."); GLC Rule 13.2.1 (2) ("Administrative hearings will be held by a Hearing Officer appointed by the President/CEO to hear such cases."). Such disputes shall be referred to a hearing officer who is charged with conducting a hearing and issuing a decision. See OCGA § 50-27-102 (d) (1)-(4). See also GLC Rule 13.2.4 (rule provides that GLC hearing officers must issue an order after the hearing).

As part of the statutory framework, the General Assembly gave the GLC authority to create its own intra-agency appeal process. OCGA § 50-27-74. "Under the GLC Rules, after a hearing officer issues an...

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