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Georgia Appeals Court Upholds Decision to Allow Correction of Designated Defendants (Web)

LecStar Telecom, Inc. v. Grenfell (June 3, 2005): Nearly a year after a trial court had granted a motion to confirm an arbitration award against LecStar/Corzon, Grenfell filed a motion to change the name of the defendant from LecStar/Corzon to LecStar Corporation and LecStar Communications Corporation, and the trial court granted the motion.  LecStar Telecom, who was not a party to the arbitration proceeding below (the trial court allowed LecStar Telecom to intervene in the proceeding below based on its argument that Grenfell ultimately would be looking to it for payment of the award; no one from LecStar Corporation or LecStar Communications Corporation came forward to oppose Grenfell's motion), appealed.  Ruling that there was no abuse of discretion, the Appellate court denied Lecstar’s motion and upheld the trial court’s decision to grant the motion.
The Appellate court found that allowing the motion for the misnomer is not a substantive change affecting the merits of the arbitration award. The Georgia Arbitration Act (GAA) requires: "Upon confirmation of the award by the court, judgment shall be entered in the same manner as provided by Chapter 11 of this title and be enforced as any other judgment or decree." OCGA § 9-9-15(a).  The Code section providing for the correction of misnomers provides in pertinent part that "[a]ll misnomers ... made in writs, pleadings, or other civil judicial proceedings, shall, on motion, be amended and corrected instanter without working unnecessary delay to the party making the same." OCGA § 9-10-132. 

The court in Foskey v. Vidalia City School, 258 Ga.App. 298, 300 (574 S.E.2d 367) (2002), noted that "[w]here the defendant can show no harm, the correction of a misnomer, even of another legal entity's correct name, is not an abuse of discretion. The correction of a misnomer applies only when there is no change of parties and does not add a new and distinct party, which had not been previously served in the case.” 

In this case, there is no harm to the defendant as a result of the correction of the misnomer, sinceLecStar Corporation and LecStar Communications Corporation submitted pleadings, defended their interests, participated in discovery, appeared at arbitration, and were represented by legal counsel. Moreover, Lecstar had agreed during the arbitration that it was "incorrectly named as LecStar/ Corzon, Inc. in Claimant's Amended Demand,” and that Lecstar itself was the correct respondent. Accordingly, there was no change of parties, no new party that had not been served was added to the case, both corporations waived any objections by appearing and pleading to the merits, and neither corporation can show any harm as a result of the correction of the misnomer. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting Grenfell's motion to correct the misnomer.

Lecstar’s other objections to the court’s decision were similarly denied on appeal. The full opinion is available at 2005 WL 1315494 (Ga.App.), or on LexisOne through the Georgia Appellate Court’s website: