Court of Appeals Affirms Summary Judgment and Trial Court Awards Fees Under Offer of Judgment Statute

By Order filed February 28, 2012, the Superior Court of Bartow County granted Lee Welborn’s motion for attorney’s fees and expenses, after the plaintiff refused the defendants’ offer of judgment made pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68(a).  The plaintiff, a driver for UPS, suffered a severe hand injury when her glove became caught in a conveyor belt serviced several weeks earlier by the defendants.  After deposing every UPS worker who had any contact with the belt, defense counsel was able to establish that no one from UPS observed or reported a protruding wire in the lacing of the conveyor belt after the defendants serviced the facility.  Defendants tendered their contract with UPS into evidence, which proved that defendants could only work at the facility when specifically called out by UPS, and that there was no ongoing contractual obligation to inspect and maintain the facility.  Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted by the trial court, which was upheld by the Court of Appeals in Dempsey v. Southeastern Industrial Contracting Co., Inc., 309 Ga. App. 140 (2011).  In ruling upon defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees and expenses, Judge Carey Nelson found that defendants had made a good faith offer of $60,000, which was rejected by the plaintiff, and that defendants’ $14,359.05 in attorney’s fees and expenses incurred after plaintiff rejected the settlement offer were reasonable and necessary.