Strickland v. Arch Insurance Company

Filing 48

ORDER granting Arch's 24 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying Strickland's 26 Motion for Summary Judgment. The Clerk is DIRECTED to enter the appropriate judgment and close this case. Signed by Chief Judge Lisa G. Wood on 1/10/2017. (ca)

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In tl^e States! Biiectrtct Conrt for tl^e ^ontfiem Bi£(trtct of(ieorstn Wujfttstii 29ttits[ton DEVIN B. STRICKLAND, Plaintiff, No, 5:14-CV-70 V. ARCH INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant. ORDER Before Defendant the Arch Court are Plaintiff Devin B. Strickland and Insurance judgment motions. Co.'s {''Arch") Dkt. Nos. 24, 26. competing summairy The motions have been fully briefed and the Court heard oral arguments on both motions. The Dkt. Nos. 28, 31-32, 35-36, 38. motions present construction finished, limitations, when the a so simple as public to question: trigger authority a finds satisfactory and takes responsibility for it? Is public statute the of project Or does the authority also need to issue formal "final acceptance"? No final acceptance is needed, because O.C.G.A. § 13-10-65 is concerned policy and A0 72A (Rev. 8/82) with actual procedure." work, not the authority's "internal U.S. Fidelity & Guar. Co. v. Rome Concrete Pipe Co., 353 S.E.2d 15, 16-17 (Ga. 1987). For this reason, as discussed below, the Court GRANTS Arch's motion, dkt. no. 24, and DENIES Strickland's motion, dkt. no. 26. FACTUAL BACKGROUND Strickland supplied sand to Douglas Asphalt for use on a Georgia Department of Transportation Dkt. No. 24-1 nil 1-2. n 4. C'GDOT") road project. Douglas Asphalt went into default. Id. Arch took over Douglas Asphalt's duty, pursuant to an agreement, then arranged for the work's completion by a third party. Id. K 5; Dkt. No. 24-3 at 6-9, 16-17. never paid. Dkt. No. 31-3 1| 7. on August 22, 2014. He sued Arch seeking recovery Dkt. No. 1-1 at 4. to this Court on September 19, 2014. According to GDOT, Strickland was the The suit was removed Dkt. No. 1. underlying road work was ''substantially complete," "ready for final inspection," and "complete and satisfactory" on August 25, 2010. at 12:2-10. The September 1, 2010. builder requested final Dkt. No. 22-3 at 1. Dkt. No. 22 inspection on It requested that GDOT take over project maintenance on January 25, 2012, "since all the [work] [had] been completed." Dkt. No. 22-4 at 1. On February 1, 2012, GDOT's area engineer informed his district engineer that completed." the "project Dkt. No. 22-5 at 1. ha[d] been satisfactorily Arch chimed in on February 8, 2012, informing GDOT that "[t]he project ha[d] been open to unrestricted completed. On traffic" and all work was satisfactorily Dkt. No. 22-7 at 1. March 12, 2012, GDOT accepted project maintenance responsibility retroactive to September 14, 2011. 22-8. Dkt. No. It considered all construction work complete, and all that remained to be done was ''the final close out" paperwork. Id. at 16:22-17:7. Therefore, in summer 2012, "semifinal" payment. Id. at 15:8-16. semifinal auditor in that Id. at 15:18-24. money. an would GDOT issued The payment was only later check for errors. GDOT did not end up paying any additional Id. at 15:25-16:1. Up until GDOT's "final written acceptance," the builder had the duty to protect the project and repair any damage to it. Dkt. No. 22 at 22:10-18. on September 22, 2014. Final written acceptance issued Dkt. No. 22-10 at 1. Strickland found out shortly before this that GDOT was "prepar[ing] to close out the job." 53:3. Dkt. No. 23 at 52:25- He was told by a GDOT employee that the project had not yet been closed, but he needed to file any claims he had immediately. Id. at 54:3-10. He was assured that GDOT would not close out the project if there were any pending lawsuits, so he responded by filing the instant suit. Id. at 54:13-15. In part, he had not taken earlier action because of a GDOT employee's assurances that he would be paid and indications that the project might need additional sand. Id. at 41:20-43:16; see also id. at 44:10-11 really tried to demonstrate I was a team player . . . ."). However, he had demanded payment in a September 7, 2012 letter to Arch, with ten pages of records attached. Dkt. No. 24-3 at 22-33. Arch sought more documents, he did not respond. When Id. at 3. LEGAL STANDARD Summary judgment is required where ''the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Grp. V. Fed. R., 658 FindWhat Inv^ r F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is "genuine" if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." to the Id. The court must view the evidence most favorably nonmovant party's favor. and draw all reasonable inferences in that Johnson v. Booker T. Washington Broad. Serv., Inc., 234 F.3d 501, 507 (11th Cir. 2000). DISCUSSION The statute of limitations bars Strickland's suit. O.C.G.A. § 13-10-65 bars suits for recovery on public works payment bonds "[brought after] one year from the completion of the contract and the acceptance of the . . . construction by the proper public authorities." both required. performance, authority." and Completion acceptance Completion and acceptance are refers ^^to to action the by builder's the public U.S. Fidelity & Guar. Co. v. Rome Concrete Pipe Co., 353 S.E.2d 15, 16 (Ga. 1987). Both were finished here as of September 14, 2011, and Strickland did not file this suit until August 22, 2014. 16:22-17:7, 23:14-18; See Dkt. No. 1-1; Dkt. No. 22 at Dkt. No. 22-8. Thus, his claim is barred. I. WORK WAS COMPLETED BY SEPTEMBER 14, 2011. Work on the road project here was completed by September 14, 2011. Georgia's statute of limitations begins to run as of ^^completion of the actual construction work"—not the public authority's "'complet[ion] [of the project] under its policy and procedures." Rome Concrete Pipe Co., 353 S.E.2d at 17. This gives the builder clear notice as to when to expect a lawsuit, whereas interpreting the statute otherwise would keep the window open until a year after some bureaucratic basilica unpredictably sends up white smoke. Id. at 16-17. Thus, Georgia's rule, like other statutes of limitation, ^^prevent[s] surprises." Order of R.R. Telegraphers v. Ry. Express Agency, 321 U.S. 342, 348-49 (1944).

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