Hanham v. Access Mgmt. Grp. L.P., S18G1033

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtMELTON, Chief Justice.
Citation825 S.E.2d 217
Decision Date04 March 2019
Docket NumberS18G1033
Parties HANHAM v. ACCESS MANAGEMENT GROUP L.P.

825 S.E.2d 217

HANHAM
v.
ACCESS MANAGEMENT GROUP L.P.

S18G1033

Supreme Court of Georgia.

Decided: March 4, 2019


James Stuart Teague, Jr., Keisha Leigh Martin Chambless, TEAGUE & CHAMBLESS, LLLP, Cumming, for Appellant.

Bruce A. Taylor, Jr., Jennifer Ellen Parrott, DREW, ECKL & FARNHAM, LLP, Atlanta, for Appellee.

MELTON, Chief Justice.

This case stems from a dispute between James and Mary Hanham, homeowners within the St. Marlo subdivision, and Access Management Group L.P., the management agent for the St. Marlo Homeowner’s Association. In 2011, the Hanhams filed claims for trespass, nuisance, negligence, invasion of privacy and breach of contract against their neighbor Marie Berthe-Narchet ("Narchet"), her landscaper GreenMaster Landscaping Service, Inc., and Access Management in response to a landscaping project on Narchet’s property that resulted in flooding to the Hanhams’ property and restricted their view of the golf course. During a 2016 jury trial, Access Management moved for a directed verdict on the negligence and breach of contract claims; the trial court denied both motions. The jury subsequently found in favor of the Hanhams, and Access Management appealed to the Court of Appeals, alleging, among other things, that the trial court erred in denying its motion for a directed verdict as to the Hanhams’ breach of contract claim. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the jury’s judgment as to that claim. See Access Mgmt. Grp., L.P. v. Hanham, 345 Ga. App. 130, 812 S.E.2d 509 (2018). Thereafter, we granted certiorari to decide whether the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the trial court’s denial of Access Management’s motion for a directed verdict as to the Hanhams’ breach of contract claim. For the reasons stated below, we conclude that the Court of Appeals’ decision was in error, and we, therefore, reverse the judgment below as it pertains to the breach of contract claim, vacate the final division of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, and remand the case to the Court of Appeals for further consideration.

825 S.E.2d 219

1. The record shows that the residents of the St. Marlo neighborhood in Forsyth County are governed by a Declaration of Covenants, which authorized the St. Marlo Homeowner’s Association to delegate the management of its affairs to a third party. Based upon that authority, the association hired Access Management as the community management agent for the St. Marlo neighborhood.

The management agreement between Access Management and St. Marlo required that Access Management "[o]perate and maintain the Development according to the highest standards achievable consistent with the overall plan of the association or as directed by the Board of Directors ...." Further, as recounted by the Court of Appeals, though the management agreement stated that Access Management’s duties were limited to the neighborhood’s common areas, evidence at trial established that Access Management, with the St. Marlo’s knowledge, went outside these responsibilities by managing the homeowner application process for landscaping modifications submitted to the association’s architectural control committee.1 These expanded responsibilities included collecting project information, reviewing it for compliance with the association’s architectural standards manual, and then forwarding the application to the architectural committee for review and approval. Access Mgmt. Grp., 345 Ga. App. at 131-132, 812 S.E.2d 509.

Here, Narchet hired GreenMaster to build a retaining wall, plant trees, and assist with a drainage issue in her backyard. She submitted her application for architectural review to Access Management in July 2012, and, despite the application’s failure to comply with the association’s architectural standards manual, the application was approved, and GreenMaster began the work on Narchet’s property. Shortly after, the Hanhams complained to Access Management that the modifications had channeled a large amount of water onto their property and that the planted trees obstructed their view of the golf course. Eventually, the Hanhams filed suit, alleging that, as third-party beneficiaries, they were injured by Access Management’s breach of its contractual duties under the management agreement. Id.

At trial, Access Management moved for a directed verdict on all of the Hanhams’ claims. Relevant to this case is the motion for directed verdict as to the breach of contract claim. The trial court denied the motion, finding as follows:

There’s -- the claim of breach of contract, this is a claim -- this is a third party beneficiary claim, the plaintiff’s claim that they’re third-party beneficiaries to Access Management Group’s contract with St. Marlo in that the homeowners are to be protected by enforcement of the -- of the standards. The same kind of analysis with the negligence is that, you know, it’s up to the jury as to whether the standards were not complied with. And the jury can say by virtue of Access Management, you know, recommending that these -- that this be approved. And approving this, that they are harmed in some way, again, a breach of contract claim. So the -- the -- that is, motion for directed verdict is denied as to the breach of contract claim.

After the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs, Access Management appealed, arguing in pertinent part that the trial court erred in denying its motion for directed verdict as to the breach of contract claim. The Court of...

To continue reading

Request your trial

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