Ryle v. Sliz, 63493

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Citation293 S.E.2d 451,162 Ga.App. 868
Docket NumberNo. 63493,63493
PartiesRYLE v. SLIZ et al.
Decision Date08 July 1982

Page 451

293 S.E.2d 451
162 Ga.App. 868

SLIZ et al.
No. 63493.
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
July 8, 1982.

Page 452

[162 Ga.App. 871] R. M. Bernhardt, Graham James Purpura, Atlanta, for appellant.

John F. Doran, Jr., Lawrenceville, for appellee.

Richard Beauchene, pro se.

[162 Ga.App. 868] SHULMAN, Presiding Judge.

When appellees Sliz and Beauchene defaulted on a promissory note to appellant Ryle, Ryle filed suit for damages he purportedly sustained as a result of appellees' alleged negligent breach of a private duty. Code Ann. § 105-104. Alleging stubborn litigiousness on the part of appellees, appellant also sought expenses of litigation pursuant to Code Ann. § 20-1404. This appeal stems from a jury verdict in favor of appellees and the denial of appellant's motions for new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

1. Because the excerpts from the trial transcript made a part of the appellate record by appellant do not present a sufficient basis from which this court can make a determination as to whether appellant was entitled to a directed verdict or judgment n. o. v., the rulings of the trial court on the two motions must be affirmed. However, we reverse the judgment entered on the jury verdict because of the admission of irrelevant, prejudicial testimony.

2. Appellant enumerates as error the admission of testimony from Wyche, appellant's former business partner, concerning a conversation between them regarding a former lessee of property owned by appellant's and Wyche's business. Wyche testified, over objection, that Grady Smith, the former tenant, had died after three or four months' occupancy and that Smith's son had attempted to operate his late father's business but had vacated the premises after falling behind in the rental payments. Wyche testified that Ryle wanted to sue the tenant's widow for the unpaid rent but that Wyche, knowing the woman had a small child, refused. When appellant objected, questioning the relevance of the above-summarized testimony, counsel for appellees argued that the testimony was admissible to show that appellant was litigious, and that this was [162 Ga.App. 869] relevant in light of appellant's allegation of stubborn litigiousness on the part of appellees. We hold that it was error to admit the testimony on such grounds.

Page 453

This case is an appropriate forum in which to state the conclusion that, in a case involving a plaintiff's claim under Code Ann. § 20-1404 for expenses of litigation, the plaintiff's as well as the defendant's litigiousness is in issue. Common sense compels the conclusion that if the evidence shows that the defendant made every reasonable effort to resolve the controversy, but the plaintiff made unreasonable demands and insisted on escalating a private conflict into public legal combat, the plaintiff, even though successful in obtaining a verdict for a portion of the damages claimed, would not be entitled to an award of expenses of litigation. It is obvious that if it was the plaintiff who was stubbornly litigatious, the defendant cannot be said to have caused the plaintiff unnecessary trouble and expense.

Having resolved that a defendant may defend against a claim for attorney fees which alleges stubborn litigiousness by showing that it was the plaintiff rather than the defendant who was stubbornly litigious, we must delineate the range of evidence admissible in support of a defendant's position.

When the issue is the award of attorney fees under Code Ann. § 20-1404 for bad faith, the appellate courts of this state have repeatedly held that the bad faith which supports such an award must arise from the transaction underlying the cause of action in litigation. See, e.g., Standard Oil Co. v. Mt. Bethel, etc., Methodist Church, 230 Ga. 341, 196 S.E.2d 869; Grant v. Hart, 197 Ga. 662(2), 30 S.E.2d 271; Traders Ins. Co. v. Mann, 118 Ga. 381(7), 45 S.E. 426; Ballenger Corp. v. Dresco, etc., Contractors, Inc., 156 Ga.App. 425 (III, A, 3), 274 S.E.2d 786; Spearman v. Flanders, 143 Ga.App. 759, 240 S.E.2d 141. The same limitation should hold true where a defendant is accused of being stubbornly litigious: the stubborn litigiousness must involve the matter in litigation. It appears that the courts of this state, while not enunciating such a limitation with regard to a claim of stubborn litigiousness, have applied it nonetheless. See, e.g., Woodson v. Burton, 241 Ga. 130(4), 243 S.E.2d 885; Jordan v. Goff, 160 Ga.App. 636(2), 287 S.E.2d 640; Buffalo Cab Co. v. Williams, 126 Ga.App. 522, 191 S.E.2d 317. In each of the cited cases, the court looked at the history of the lawsuit before it to determine whether there was evidence of stubborn litigiousness. Likewise, evidence introduced by a defendant in an attempt to defend against an allegation of stubborn litigiousness would necessarily be limited to the plaintiff's conduct in the case in which the claim for litigation expenses was made. A contrary holding would penalize those who are [162 Ga.App. 870] willing to enforce their rights through the courts. The fact that a plaintiff is litigious, that he sues everyone who offends him or has any disagreement with him, should not affect his right to recover what is rightly his. "No man is bound to forego litigation at the expense of yielding rights apparently well-founded, much less those which prove to be so founded in the end." Tift v. Towns, 63 Ga. 237, 242(3).

The present case is illustrative of the danger of permitting the introduction of irrelevant evidence on this issue. Appellant was painted as a Scrooge who would sue a widow with a child. Regardless of the merits of the proposed action against the widow,...

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5 cases
  • Corey v. Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., s. A09A0304, A09A0305, A09A0306.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 14 Julio 2009
    ...must arise from the underlying transaction at issue and the stubborn litigiousness must involve the matter in litigation. Ryle v. Sliz, 162 Ga.App. 868, 869(2), 293 S.E.2d 451 (1982). The dispute over airport advertising is neither the underlying transaction nor the matter in litigation, an......
  • Sun v. Langston, 67712
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 1 Marzo 1984
    ...Langston was nevertheless unauthorized and must be stricken. While it has been expressly declared by this court in Ryle v. Sliz, 162 Ga.App. 868(2), 293 S.E.2d 451 (1982), that a claim under OCGA § 13-6-11 for expenses of litigation due to the stubborn litigiousness or bad faith of the plai......
  • Williams v. Warren, A13A0161.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 2 Julio 2013
    ...well-founded, much less those which prove to be so founded in the end.’ Tift v. Towns, 63 Ga. 237, 242(3) [ (1879) ].” Ryle v. Sliz, 162 Ga.App. 868, 869–870(2), 293 S.E.2d 451 (1982). The question before us is whether or not, in light of the current state of the law, Gibson Const. Co., sup......
  • Stone v. King, A90A0653
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • 3 Julio 1990
    ...has been held to apply to conduct "aris[ing] from the transaction underlying the cause of action in litigation. [Cits.]" Ryle v. Sliz, 162 Ga.App. 868, 869, 293 S.E.2d 451 (1982). Conversely, OCGA § 9-15-14(a), (b), which authorizes the recovery of attorney fee expenses incurred in respondi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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