Pfeiffer v. Georgia Dept. of Transp., No. S01G1656.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtFLETCHER, Chief Justice.
Citation573 S.E.2d 389,275 Ga. 827
PartiesPFEIFFER v. GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.
Docket NumberNo. S01G1656.
Decision Date26 November 2002

573 S.E.2d 389
275 Ga. 827

PFEIFFER
v.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

No. S01G1656.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

November 26, 2002.

Reconsideration Denied December 13, 2002.


573 S.E.2d 390
Ford and Barnhart, James L. Ford, Sr., Atlanta, Peek, Cobb, Edwards & Ashton, Thomas S. Edwards, Jr., Jacksonville, for appellant

Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, Frank M. Lowrey, IV, Atlanta, Whelchel, Brown, Readdick & Bumgartner, Brunswick, for appellee.

Reynolds & McArthur, Charles M. Cork, III, Macon, amicus curiae.

FLETCHER, Chief Justice.

We granted certiorari in this wrongful death case to examine whether the Court of Appeals of Georgia, in affirming the grant of summary judgment to the Georgia Department of Transportation, erred in failing to address contentions raised by Karen Pfeiffer [275 Ga. 828] because they were not raised in the trial court.1 Because the court of appeals's decision is consistent with the purpose of summary judgment and long-standing appellate procedure, we affirm.

1. Karen Pfeiffer sued DOT for the death of her husband, Robert Pfeiffer, a construction worker working for the general contractor, Rosiek Construction Company, on the Sidney Lanier Bridge project. Pfeiffer alleged that DOT was responsible for ensuring the safety of workers on the project and that its breach of this duty of care caused the death of her husband. DOT moved for summary judgment on the ground that its contract with Rosiek specified that the contractor had the responsibility for administering on-site construction safety procedures. In opposing summary judgment, Pfeiffer argued that, because the project was a federal aid construction project, 23 CFR § 630.1010(b) imposed a non-delegable duty on DOT with regard to safety issues on the project. The trial court granted summary judgment to DOT after rejecting the argument that the federal regulation imposed a non-delegable duty on DOT.

The court of appeals affirmed the trial court, concluding first that the contract between DOT and Rosiek did unambiguously delegate the responsibility for safety oversight to Rosiek and, second, that this delegation was not impermissible under section 630.1010(b). The court of appeals refused to

573 S.E.2d 391
address Pfeiffer's other legal arguments in support of reversing the trial court, holding that, because Pfeiffer failed to raise these arguments in the trial court, she could not raise them for the first time on appeal

2. The purpose behind summary judgment is to "dispose of litigation expeditiously and avoid useless time and expense to go through a jury trial."2 This purpose is thwarted when a party may withhold meritorious legal arguments until appeal. Allowing a party to raise new arguments also ignores the duties and responsibilities placed on the parties by OCGA § 9-11-56. Each party has a duty to present his best case on a motion for summary judgment.3 This Court has specifically held that, in responding to a motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs have a statutory duty "to produce whatever viable theory of recovery they might have or run the risk of an adjudication on the merits of their case."4 The same burden is placed on the parties with regard to factual issues. As we held in Lau's Corp. v. Haskins, once a defendant points out that there is an absence of evidence to support the plaintiff's case, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff, who "must [275 Ga. 829] point to specific evidence giving rise to a triable issue."5

Additionally, our appellate courts are courts for the correction of errors of law committed in the trial court.6 Routinely, this Court refuses to review issues not raised in the trial court.7 "`[T]o consider the case on a completely different basis from that presented below ... would be contrary to the line of cases ... holding, "He must stand or fall upon the position taken in the trial court."'"8 Fairness to the trial court and to the parties demands that legal issues be asserted in the trial court.9 If the rule were otherwise, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment need not raise any legal issue, spend the next year thinking up and researching additional issues for the appellate court to address, and require the opposing party to address those issues within the narrow time frame of appellate practice rules.

Therefore, absent special circumstances,10 an appellate court need not consider arguments raised for the first time on appeal.11 This rule is consistent with the purposes of the summary judgment and with the majority of other jurisdictions. 12[275 Ga. 830]

573 S.E.2d 392
3. Our decision in Dental One Assoc. v. JKR Realty Assoc., Ltd.,13 does not demand a different result. That case does not stand for the proposition than a party can raise new legal issues on appeal. Instead that case simply acknowledges that to be entitled to summary judgment, a party who bears the burden of proof at trial must present the trial court with the facts showing its entitlement to judgment. When the record fails to contain the facts supporting the grant of summary judgment, the non-movant may argue this ground to the appellate court regardless of whether the non-movant asserted an "objection to the prima facie case."14

Judgment affirmed.

All the Justices concur, except HUNSTEIN and CARLEY, JJ., who dissent.

CARLEY, Justice, dissenting.

Karen Pfeiffer brought suit against the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT), seeking to recover for the wrongful death of her husband. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of DOT, and Ms. Pfeiffer appealed. In support of her contention that the trial court erroneously granted the motion, she advanced several evidentiary arguments which the Court of Appeals declined to consider on the ground that they were neither raised nor ruled on below. Pfeiffer v. Department of Transp., 250 Ga.App. 643, 647(3), 551 S.E.2d 58 (2001). We granted Ms. Pfeiffer's petition for certiorari, and today a majority of this Court affirms that holding.

As the majority correctly notes, the purpose of both the Court of Appeals and this Court is to correct errors of law committed in lower tribunals. Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources v. Coweta County, 261 Ga. 484, 405 S.E.2d 470 (1991); Harmon v. Southern R. Co., 123 Ga.App. 309(2), 180 S.E.2d 604 (1971). When the appeal is from the grant of summary judgment, however, the paramount legal issue presented for determination is whether the trial court correctly held that no genuine issue of material fact remains and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. OCGA § 9-11-56(c). The appellate courts of this state have long recognized that, in addressing the issue of whether the trial court erred in that regard, the particular arguments that the parties may have advanced below are irrelevant. "It is the grant itself that is to be reviewed for error, and not the analysis employed. [Cit.]" Albany Oil Mill v. Sumter EMC, 212 Ga.App. 242, 243(3), 441 S.E.2d 524 (1994). "[A] trial court does not [275 Ga. 831] sit as the trier of fact, but `review(s) the evidence and determine(s) whether a prima facie case has been proven by the movant.' [Cits.]" Baker v. Brannen/Goddard Co., 274 Ga. 745, 747(1), 559 S.E.2d 450 (2002). "It is the evidence of record, not the assertions and objections made by counsel at the hearing, which determines the validity or invalidity of the grant of summary judgment. [Cits.]" Dental One Assoc. v. JKR Realty Assoc., 269 Ga. 616, 617(1), 501...

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152 practice notes
  • Am. Mgmt. Servs. E., LLC v. Fort Benning Family Cmtys., LLC, No. A15A0125.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 15 Julio 2015
    ...Inc. v. Advanced Computing Technologies, Inc., 273 Ga.App. 802, 802–805(2), 616 S.E.2d 816 (2005).30 Pfeiffer v. Ga. Dept. of Transp., 275 Ga. 827, 827–829(1), (2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002).31 Compare Etowah Valley Sporting Clay Park, LLC v. Dawson County, 294 Ga.App. 586, 588 –589(1)(a), 669 ......
  • CMGRP, Inc. v. Gallant, A17A1168
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 4 Octubre 2017
    ...for a ground presented to the trial court that the court chose not to address in its judgment).9 See Pfeiffer v. Ga. Dep't of Transp., 275 Ga. 827, 829 (2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002) ("Routinely, this Court refuses to review issues not raised in the trial court.... Fairness to the trial court a......
  • I. A. Grp., LTD v. Rmnandco, Inc., A18A0578
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 19 Junio 2018
    ...See id. at 464 (3) n.6, 784 S.E.2d 823 ; supra note 12.32 See id. at 464 (3) n.6, 784 S.E.2d 823.33 See Pfeiffer v. Ga. Dep't of Transp ., 275 Ga. 827, 829 (2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002) ("[O]ur appellate courts are courts for the correction of errors of law committed in the trial court. Routin......
  • Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Inc. v. Ichthus Cmty. Trust, Nos. S15A1021
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 23 Noviembre 2015
    ...properly before the trial court29 and is not properly before this Court for review. See Pfeiffer v. Georgia Department of Transportation, 275 Ga. 827(2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002).b. Wire Fraud The Task Force raised the predicate act of wire fraud for the first time in its response to defendant......
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153 cases
  • Am. Mgmt. Servs. E., LLC v. Fort Benning Family Cmtys., LLC, No. A15A0125.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 15 Julio 2015
    ...Inc. v. Advanced Computing Technologies, Inc., 273 Ga.App. 802, 802–805(2), 616 S.E.2d 816 (2005).30 Pfeiffer v. Ga. Dept. of Transp., 275 Ga. 827, 827–829(1), (2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002).31 Compare Etowah Valley Sporting Clay Park, LLC v. Dawson County, 294 Ga.App. 586, 588 –589(1)(a), 669 ......
  • CMGRP, Inc. v. Gallant, A17A1168
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 4 Octubre 2017
    ...for a ground presented to the trial court that the court chose not to address in its judgment).9 See Pfeiffer v. Ga. Dep't of Transp., 275 Ga. 827, 829 (2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002) ("Routinely, this Court refuses to review issues not raised in the trial court.... Fairness to the trial co......
  • I. A. Grp., LTD v. Rmnandco, Inc., A18A0578
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 19 Junio 2018
    ...See id. at 464 (3) n.6, 784 S.E.2d 823 ; supra note 12.32 See id. at 464 (3) n.6, 784 S.E.2d 823.33 See Pfeiffer v. Ga. Dep't of Transp ., 275 Ga. 827, 829 (2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002) ("[O]ur appellate courts are courts for the correction of errors of law committed in the trial court. R......
  • Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Inc. v. Ichthus Cmty. Trust, Nos. S15A1021
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • 23 Noviembre 2015
    ...properly before the trial court29 and is not properly before this Court for review. See Pfeiffer v. Georgia Department of Transportation, 275 Ga. 827(2), 573 S.E.2d 389 (2002).b. Wire Fraud The Task Force raised the predicate act of wire fraud for the first time in its response to defendant......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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