Fulton County v. Ward-PoagAnnotate this Case
Summary judgment was awarded to Fulton County, Georgia on Sandra Ward-Poag’s civil whistleblower claims on the ground of judicial estoppel. Specifically, the superior court concluded judicial estoppel barred Ward-Poag’s claims because she took an inconsistent position regarding the nature of those claims when she failed to disclose her claims in her bankruptcy case, and then amended her bankruptcy petition to value her claims against the County as worth far less than alleged here. The Court of Appeals reversed the superior court’s decision, concluding that Ward-Poag’s amendment to her bankruptcy petition to list the claim in fact showed that she did not take an inconsistent position in the superior court. In making that determination, the Court of Appeals relied on its case law that created a bright-line rule that a party takes consistent positions, and thus lacks an intent to deceive the court system, when the party successfully amends a bankruptcy schedule to include a previously undisclosed asset. The Georgia Supreme Court disapproved the Court of Appeals’s analysis and its previous case law to the extent it created that bright-line rule, because "such rules have no place in the application of judicial estoppel." The Supreme Court nevertheless affirmed the Court of Appeals’s ultimate conclusion that the superior court abused its discretion in applying the doctrine at this procedural stage because there were genuine issues of material fact that precluded summary judgment to Fulton County.