From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

Derry v. Clements

Court of Appeals of Georgia
Sep 20, 1990
197 Ga. App. 173 (Ga. Ct. App. 1990)




Action on contract. Glynn Superior Court. Before Judge Taylor.

Charles E. Lamkin, for appellant. Lee MacMillan, S. Wesley Woolf, Thomas J. Lee, for appellee.

Margaret Derry alleged that Minnie Clements, her two sons Michael and Joseph, and All Coast Land Development Company, Inc., conspired to defraud her in the sale of a condominium. Some of the alleged fraudulent representations made to Derry concerned the quality and construction of the condominium. Plaintiff also averred that she required a moisture-free environment and was assured of that by Joseph Clements, but that water problems plagued the condominium. Summary judgment was granted to Minnie Clements, who was dismissed as a party defendant. This appeal followed.

Minnie Clements signed the condominium sales contract between Derry and All Coast as president of All Coast. Clements' affidavit denied that she was an officer, stockholder or employee of All Coast. She stated she had no authority to represent the corporation or to bind its interests; that she made no written or oral representations concerning the condition or construction of the condominium purchased by Derry; that she owned no interest in the condominium nor received any benefit from its sale. She explained that she signed the sales contract at the sole behest of the real estate broker, whom she expressly informed regarding her lack of authority to sign on behalf of the seller, and that the contract was executed without a corporate seal. Clements also affirmed that she was unaware of Derry's alleged need to live in a moisture-free environment and that she was and never had been a professional builder and was never part of any design or scheme to obtain money or funds from Derry. Derry introduced no proof to contradict Clements' affidavit and relied upon her allegations of a conspiracy to defraud.

As movant, defendant must unequivocally refute plaintiff's allegations and conclusively negate one or more essential elements of plaintiff's case. Scott v. Owens-Illinois, 173 Ga. App. 19, 20 ( 325 S.E.2d 402) (1984). Clements' statement denying her participation in any scheme was direct evidence which could constitute an uncontradicted fact capable of sustaining a motion for summary judgment. Guernsey Petroleum Corp. v. Data General Corp., 183 Ga. App. 790, 792 (2a) ( 359 S.E.2d 920) (1987). Because Clements denied the essential allegations of the complaint and submitted evidence that she was not part of a conspiracy to defraud Derry, she carried her burden of showing there was no genuine issue of material fact. The burden was then on respondent not to rest upon the allegations of the pleadings, but to set forth specific facts showing there was a genuine issue for trial. Meade v. Heimanson, 239 Ga. 177, 178 ( 236 S.E.2d 357) (1977).

Remaining is whether Clements' execution of the sales contract as president of All Coast is sufficient to raise a jury question as to her involvement in the alleged conspiracy. The signing of the document does not directly establish Derry's allegations and is at most circumstantial evidence from which the fact may be inferred. OCGA § 24-1-1 (4). As such it must be sufficient to support a verdict in order to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Allen Kane's Major Dodge v. Barnes, 243 Ga. 776, 780 ( 257 S.E.2d 186) (1979). The plaintiff must offer proof which tends in some proximate degree to establish the conclusion claimed; "the facts shown must not only reasonably support that conclusion, but also render less probable all inconsistent conclusions." Georgia R. Elec. Co. v. Harris, 1 Ga. App. 714, 717 (1) ( 57 S.E. 1076) (1907). Accord Guernsey Petroleum Corp., supra at 792 (2a).

The signing raises a suspicion as to defendant's conspiracy involvement, but it is also susceptible to the conclusion that she was influenced into signing despite her protestations and against her better judgment. In those circumstances her actions would have had nothing to do with the alleged scheme to defraud plaintiff.

"[A]n inference cannot be based upon evidence which is too uncertain or speculative or which raises merely a conjecture or possibility." Cohen v. Hartladge, 179 Ga. App. 847, 851 ( 348 S.E.2d 331) (1986). "[A] finding of fact which may be inferred but is not demanded by circumstantial evidence has no probative value against positive and uncontradicted evidence that no such fact exists." Dougherty County Farm Bureau v. Hinman, 184 Ga. App. 244, 245 ( 361 S.E.2d 236) (1987). Weighed against direct evidence that defendant was not involved in any scheme, the evidence that she executed the sales contract would raise an inconclusive inference which would not withstand summary judgment. Allen Kane's Major Dodge, supra at 781; Scoggins v. APAC-Ga., 193 Ga. App. 465, 467 ( 388 S.E.2d 58) (1989); Brewer v. Southeastern Fid. Ins. Co., 147 Ga. App. 562, 564 ( 249 S.E.2d 668) (1978).

Judgment affirmed. Deen, P. J., and Pope, J., concur.


Summaries of

Derry v. Clements

Court of Appeals of Georgia
Sep 20, 1990
197 Ga. App. 173 (Ga. Ct. App. 1990)
Case details for

Derry v. Clements

Case Details

Full title:DERRY v. CLEMENTS

Court:Court of Appeals of Georgia

Date published: Sep 20, 1990


197 Ga. App. 173 (Ga. Ct. App. 1990)
397 S.E.2d 594

Citing Cases

Sharfuddin v. Drug Emporium

(a) Even if this statement could be labeled an inference she reached from looking at the drops, without some…

Niles v. Board of Regents

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Derry v. Clements, 197 Ga. App. 173, 174 ( 397 S.E.2d 594) (1990). "The…