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July 2010

Supreme Court Issues Three Important Decisions

The United States Supreme Court has recently issued three much anticipated decisions. The first case, Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, allows parties to limit a federal court’s role in determining whether an arbitration agreement is enforceable. The second case, City of Ontario, California v. Quon, is the first time the Court has addressed employee privacy rights in electronic communications. The third case, New Process Steel, L.P. v. National Labor Relations Board, leaves uncertain the results of all cases decided by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) between January 1, 2008 and March 2010.

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Requirements on Developers and Public Water Authorities

On June 2, 2010, Governor Sonny Perdue signed the Water Stewardship Act of 2010 (the "Water Act"). The Water Act contains several new requirements concerning developers and builders. The first, codified at O.C.G.A. § 12-5-180.1(c), requires all multifamily residential buildings permitted on or after July 1, 2012 be constructed so as to allow metering of the water usage of each unit. However, this requirement does not apply to renovations of multifamily residential buildings or to reconstruction subsequent to a casualty or condemnation.

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The Evolving Duty to Settle: A Foundation Made of Shifting Sand

Many are familiar with the delineation between the duties to defend and to indemnify that are owed by an insurer to its insured. A third duty has emerged in the case law, however, that has no explicit contractual source: the obligation to settle a claim in certain circumstances when demanded by the adverse claimant within policy limits. Because the relationship between an insurance company and its insured is somewhat of a fiduciary one, an insurer is negligent in failing to settle if proceeding to trial involves an unreasonable risk of unfavorable results. Consequently, the measure of damages to compensate the insured for the insurer’s breach of the duty to settle is the full amount of damages awarded regardless of the liability limits of the policy.
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Legislative Update

The Georgia General Assembly ended its 2010 legislative session on April 29, 2010. The three main areas addressed by the General Assembly this year were education, transportation, and conservation.

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Local Governments Should Consider SPLOST Tax in Difficult Economic Conditions

Many local governments are feeling the budgetary pinch of the down economy. Local governments should be aware that Georgia law provides an excellent economic vehicle to fund capital outlay projects during tough economic times called a SPLOST tax. SPLOSTs are advantageous because they spread tax liability to non-residents, allowing them to continue funding improvements without raising property taxes.
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