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Soerries v. Dancause

Court of Appeals of Georgia
546 S.E.2d 356 (2001)


Facts

William Soerries (defendant) was the sole shareholder of Chickasaw Club, Inc. (Chickasaw) (defendant). Chickasaw operated a nightclub. In 1996, Aubrey Pursley was intoxicated when she entered the nightclub, and she was visibly intoxicated when she left around 3:00 a.m. Shortly after Pursley left the nightclub, Pursley lost control of her car and died. Joseph Dancause (plaintiff), Pursley’s stepfather, sued to recover the cost of the damaged car and punitive damages. Dancause sued Chickasaw, and Dancause sued Soerries individually, seeking to pierce the corporate veil to make Soerries personally liable. At trial, evidence showed that Soerries paid employees cash that was not reported in the corporate bookkeeping records. Evidence also showed that although the nightclub was busy, it regularly declared business losses on its corporate tax returns. Finally, evidence was presented that showed Soerries commingled his personal assets with corporate assets. For example, Soerries paid himself rent for the nightclub property, but then declared less than what he paid himself on his personal tax returns. The trial court pierced the corporate veil and found Soerries: (1) jointly liable with Chickasaw for $6,500 in compensatory damages and (2) solely, personally liable for $187,500 in punitive damages. Soerries appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Ellington, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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