Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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E. Kendrick Smith, an Atlanta lawyer, brought this action to compel a corporation, Northside Hospital, Inc. and its parent company, Northside Health Services, Inc., (collectively, “Northside”), to provide him with access to certain documents in response to his request under the Georgia Open Records Act (“the Act”). A government agency owns and operates a large and complex hospital as part of its mission to provide healthcare throughout Fulton County. The agency leased its assets (including the hospital) to the Northside for a 40-year term at a relatively minimal rent. All governmental powers were delegated to Northside with respect to running the hospital and other assets. Northside’s organizing documents reflected that its purpose aligned with the agency’s: to provide healthcare for the benefit of the public. Thirty years into the arrangement, the corporation became “massive,” and owned other assets in surrounding counties. In resisting Smith’s request for records, Northside argued it no didn’t really do anything on behalf of the agency (in part because the now nearly-nonexistent agency has no idea what the corporation is doing), and thus the corporation’s records of a series of healthcare-related acquisitions weren’t subject to public inspection. The Georgia Supreme Court surmised that if the corporation’s aggressive position were wholly correct, it would cast serious doubt on the legality of the whole arrangement between Northside and the agency. Smith argued everything Northside did was for the agency’s benefit and thus all of its records were public. The Supreme Court concluded both were wrong: Northside’s operation of the hospital and other leased facilities was a service it performed on behalf of the agency, so records related to that operation were public records. But whether the acquisition-related records sought here were also public records depended on how closely related the acquisition was to the operation of the leased facilities, a factual question for the trial court to determine on remand. View "Smith v. Northside Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a written contract between a vendor and a state agency that contained form language stipulating that amendments had to be in writing and executed by the agency and the contractor. Appellant Georgia Department of Labor (DOL) entered into the contract in question with appellee RTT Associates, Inc. (RTT) to have some computer software developed for the agency. RTT asserted that the contract was extended by course of conduct as well as by certain internal writings created by the agency. By the terms of Georgia’s constitution, the state waived its sovereign immunity for breach of contract when it enters into a written contract. At issue was whether an agency’s waiver of immunity from a breach of contract claim as a result of entering into a written contract remained intact in the event the contract was extended without a written document signed by both parties expressly amending the contract, as required by its terms. The trial court concluded sovereign immunity was not waived beyond the required completion date of the contract, but the Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding RTT failed to complete its contractual obligations before the contract expired. "Even if the parties’ conduct after the expiration of the contract could be found to demonstrate an agreement between the parties to continue to perform under the original contract, as a matter of law neither that conduct nor the internal documents created by DOL after the contract expired establishes a written contract to do so. Without a written contract, the state’s sovereign immunity from a contract action is not waived." View "Georgia Dept. of Labor v. RTT Associates, Inc." on Justia Law