Georgia Dept. of Corrections v. CouchAnnotate this Case
David Lee Couch filed a tort lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections. After the Department rejected Couch's offer to settle the case for $24,000, the case proceeded to trial, where the jury returned a verdict for Couch in the amount of $105,417. Based on Couch's 40% contingency fee agreement with his attorneys, the trial court ordered the Department to pay Couch $49,542 in attorney fees after appeal, including post-judgment interest, and litigation expenses, pursuant to the "offer of settlement" statute, OCGA 9-11-68 (b) (2). The Court of Appeals upheld that award. The Supreme Court then granted certiorari to address two questions: (1) whether the appellate court erred when it held that the sovereign immunity of the Department was waived by the Georgia Tort Claims Act as to Couch's attorney fees; and (2) if the sovereign immunity of the Department was waived as to Couch's attorney fees, did the Court of Appeals err by failing to prorate the contingency fee to reflect that some of the fees were incurred before the settlement offer was rejected. The Supreme Court held that the sovereign immunity of the Department was waived as to the attorney fees award under OCGA 9-11-68, but that the trial court did not properly calculate the amount of the award. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.