Griffin v. Turner, A19A0281

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Writing for the CourtMcFadden, Presiding Judge.
Citation350 Ga.App. 694,830 S.E.2d 239
Parties GRIFFIN v. TURNER.
Decision Date21 June 2019
Docket NumberA19A0281

350 Ga.App. 694
830 S.E.2d 239

GRIFFIN
v.
TURNER.

A19A0281

Court of Appeals of Georgia.

June 21, 2019


830 S.E.2d 241

Calvin Allison Rouse, for Appellant.

John Ryd Bush Long, for Appellee.

McFadden, Presiding Judge.

350 Ga.App. 694

Gary Daniel Griffin filed this action against Dennis R. Turner for tortious interference with contractual and business relations. The trial court granted summary judgment to Turner and ruled that he was entitled to OCGA § 9-15-14 attorney fees, although the court

350 Ga.App. 695

reserved ruling on the amount of the attorney fees award. Griffin filed this appeal.

We affirm the grant of summary judgment to Turner to the extent that Griffin’s claims arise from the termination of three specific accounts of his landscaping business. As for the remainder of Griffin’s claims, Turner has not shown that there is no genuine issue of material fact such that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. So we otherwise reverse the grant of summary judgment. We vacate the attorney fees ruling.

1. Facts and proceedings below.

A trial court may grant summary judgment when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. OCGA § 9-11-56 (c). A defendant may demonstrate that he is entitled to summary judgment "by either presenting evidence negating an essential element of the plaintiff’s claims or establishing from the record an absence of evidence to support such claims." Cowart v. Widener , 287 Ga. 622, 623 (1), 697 S.E.2d 779 (2010) (citation omitted). Once the defendant has met this burden, the plaintiff "must point to specific evidence giving rise to a triable issue" or suffer summary judgment. Id.

"We review the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo, and we must view the evidence, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant." Pennington v. Gwinnett County , 329 Ga. App. 255, 764 S.E.2d 860 (2014) (citation and punctuation omitted).

Viewed in the light most favorable to Griffin as the nonmovant, the record shows that Griffin and Turner, both residents of South Carolina, are next door neighbors who disagree about the location of the property line between their properties. The disagreement has resulted in litigation separate from this case.

Since 2007, Griffin had worked as a photographer for Strawbridge Studios, a company that provides photography services to public school systems. He also owns a landscaping company, but his photography work for Strawbridge was his primary employment and source of income.

In April 2015, four months after Griffin had purchased the property next to Turner’s, Turner called the administrative offices of Strawbridge, identified himself as a concerned parent who had obtained a history of Griffin’s purported drug arrests, and said that Griffin posed a danger to school children. Turner threatened to take further action with school authorities unless Strawbridge "dealt" with Griffin’s employment at the schools. Griffin attached to his affidavit

830 S.E.2d 242

filed in opposition to the summary judgment motion a

350 Ga.App. 696

transcript of one of Turner’s telephone calls to Strawbridge. Griffin’s supervisor asked Griffin to resign from Strawbridge, although he had worked there for eight years. The supervisor was concerned about protecting Strawbridge’s relationships with the school systems where Griffin worked, given Turner’s history of filing false police reports and the fact that Turner actually had contacted one of the school boards.

Over a two-month period in early 2015, Turner filed twenty complaints with code enforcement authorities about Griffin storing landscaping equipment at his residence. Turner’s complaints were dismissed. But due to Turner, the sheriff department issued a warning to Griffin for interfering with Turner’s construction of a fence in the disputed area of property. Griffin was arrested for violating the warning and jailed for three days. While he was in jail, he was unable to manage his landscaping business, and his absence caused a landscaping project in Martinez, Georgia to be shut down. The charge was dismissed, and the record of the arrest and the mug shot were ordered to be expunged.

Some of Griffin’s landscaping customers remarked to him that Turner had contacted them and made disparaging statements about Griffin. Three of his customers, Plowman, Cone, and Barr, cancelled his services. But Cone and Barr had never met, spoken with, or seen Turner, and Plowman testified that he terminated Griffin’s landscaping service because he was unhappy with the work, not because of anything Turner said to him.

Griffin filed a civil lawsuit in South Carolina against Turner regarding the boundary dispute and Turner’s alleged trespassing on Griffin’s property. He filed this lawsuit against Turner for interference with contractual and business relations regarding his employment with Strawbridge and his landscaping business. From the record it appears that there has been no discovery.

Turner moved to dismiss this complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss.1 Nonetheless, Turner filed a motion for OCGA § 9-15-14 attorney fees. Although Turner had not moved for summary judgment, Griffin filed a document entitled "plaintiff’s response to defendant’s motion for attorney fees or alternatively for summary judgment." A few days later, Turner did file a motion for summary judgment and renewed his motion to dismiss. The trial court granted Turner’s motion for summary judgment and his motion for

350 Ga.App. 697

OCGA § 9-15-14 attorney fees but reserved ruling on the amount of fees. Griffin then filed this appeal.

2. Tortious interference claims.

Griffin argues that the trial court erred by granting Tuner’s motion for summary judgment. We hold that Turner was entitled to summary judgment only on Griffin’s claims relating to three specific landscaping accounts.

To recover under a theory of tortious interference with contractual relations, Griffin must show "the existence of a valid contract and that [Turner] acted intentionally, without privilege or legal justification, to induce another not to enter into or continue a business relationship with [Griffin], thereby causing [Griffin] financial injury." Brathwaite v. Fulton-DeKalb Hosp. Auth. , 317 Ga. App. 111, 113 (1), 729 S.E.2d 625 (2012) (citation and punctuation omitted). To recover under a theory of tortious interference with business relations, Griffin must show that Turner "(1) acted improperly and without privilege, (2) acted purposely and with malice with the intent to injure, (3) induced a third party or parties not to enter into or continue a business relationship with [Griffin], and (4) caused [Griffin] financial injury." Renden, Inc. v. Liberty Real Estate Partnership , 213 Ga. App. 333, 334 (2), 444 S.E.2d 814 (1994) (emphasis omitted). "[T]ortious interference with contractual relations deals with the violation of property rights created under an existing contract... [while] tortious interference with business relations .... involves interference with prospective or inchoate property rights that the plaintiff has, or at

830 S.E.2d 243

least hopes to have, as a result of the operation of his business or pursuit of his occupation." Adams, Ga. Law of Torts § 33:3 (2018).

(a) Strawbridge employment.

Turner...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 practice notes
  • Wright v. City of Greensboro, A19A0149
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 21, 2019
    ...OCGA § 36-33-5 to add subsection (e),39 which took effect on July 1, 2014.40 Thus, unlike in the instant case , there was no statute 350 Ga.App. 694 in existence at the time the plaintiffs in Rowland sent their ante litem notices that explicitly required them to include the specific amount ......
  • Dutt v. Mannar & Co., A19A2130
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 13, 2020
    ...element of the plaintiff’s claims or establishing from the record an absence of evidence to support such claims." Griffin v. Turner , 350 Ga. App. 694, 695 (1), 830 S.E.2d 239 (2019) (citation and punctuation omitted). Because Mannar established that there is an absence of the essential neg......
  • Taylor v. Gov't Emps. Ins. Co., A19A0547
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 21, 2019
    ...[.]" However, Taylor has failed to cite to any evidence in the record or legal authority in support of this argument.11 Regardless, in 830 S.E.2d 239 Taylor’s demand letter, she asserted a claim for $ 20,800 in incurred medical expenses, future medical expenses to treat her "back and neck h......
  • First Cmtys. Mgmt., Inc. v. Holmes, A19A1829
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • January 9, 2020
    ...element of the plaintiff’s claims or establishing from the record an absence of evidence to support such claims." Griffin v. Turner , 350 Ga. App. 694, 695 (1), 830 S.E.2d 239 (2019) (citation and punctuation omitted). Because First Communities established that there is no evidence of hazar......
4 cases
  • Wright v. City of Greensboro, A19A0149
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 21, 2019
    ...OCGA § 36-33-5 to add subsection (e),39 which took effect on July 1, 2014.40 Thus, unlike in the instant case , there was no statute 350 Ga.App. 694 in existence at the time the plaintiffs in Rowland sent their ante litem notices that explicitly required them to include the specific amount ......
  • Dutt v. Mannar & Co., A19A2130
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 13, 2020
    ...element of the plaintiff’s claims or establishing from the record an absence of evidence to support such claims." Griffin v. Turner , 350 Ga. App. 694, 695 (1), 830 S.E.2d 239 (2019) (citation and punctuation omitted). Because Mannar established that there is an absence of the essential neg......
  • Taylor v. Gov't Emps. Ins. Co., A19A0547
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 21, 2019
    ...[.]" However, Taylor has failed to cite to any evidence in the record or legal authority in support of this argument.11 Regardless, in 830 S.E.2d 239 Taylor’s demand letter, she asserted a claim for $ 20,800 in incurred medical expenses, future medical expenses to treat her "back and neck h......
  • First Cmtys. Mgmt., Inc. v. Holmes, A19A1829
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • January 9, 2020
    ...element of the plaintiff’s claims or establishing from the record an absence of evidence to support such claims." Griffin v. Turner , 350 Ga. App. 694, 695 (1), 830 S.E.2d 239 (2019) (citation and punctuation omitted). Because First Communities established that there is no evidence of hazar......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT