Sharpe v. McCartney

Court of Appeals Rules That the Renewal Statute Does Not Apply When the Original Action Is Dismissed by the Court Rather Than Voluntarily Dismissed by the Plaintiff


In the case of Sharpe v. McCartney, Lytwania Sharpe sued Kimberly McCartney in federal court, alleging excessive force by a police officer. Plaintiff filed her complaint on April 19, 2021—one day before the statute of limitations expired. After multiple extensions and delays, the Plaintiff ultimately did obtain service on the Defendant approximately 318 days after she filed her original complaint and 120 days after the last extended deadline to serve. The federal court dismissed Plaintiff’s action without prejudice for her failure to perfect service on Defendant within the required time under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 

Sharpe later filed a renewal action in a superior court in Georgia—a state court as opposed to a federal court. Defendant moved for summary judgment to dismiss Plaintiff’s renewal action, arguing that once the federal court dismissed the original action, the original action was void and not renewable under the renewal statute. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s decision with the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

Issues & Holdings

The issue in this case was whether Plaintiff’s action in state court was renewable under O.C.G.A. § 9-2-61(a)—the “renewal statute.” 

The Court of Appeals held that Plaintiff’s action was not renewable under the renewal statute, holding that the trial court did not err in its decision because the original action in federal court was void once it was dismissed for not perfecting service on Defendant within the required time.


The renewal statute is found at O.C.G.A. § 9-2-61. Subsection (a) provides that when a case is commenced within the statute of limitation and later dismissed voluntarily by the plaintiff, it may be recommenced (renewed) within six months after the dismissal, even when the statute of limitations has expired since the filing of the original action. When the plaintiff does not voluntarily dismiss the original action, the renewal right will still apply only when the court has dismissed the case without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Georgia held in Hobbs v. Arthur that the renewal statute does not apply to “cases decided on their merits or to void cases,” and that a suit is “void” and cannot be renewed when there is a judicial determination that the case should be dismissed. Hobbs v. Arthur, 264 Ga. 359 (1994).

In this case, the federal court made a judicial determination to dismiss Plaintiff’s original action based on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for failure to perfect service, and not for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. If Plaintiff had voluntarily dismissed her own case without prejudice before any judicial determination was made, Plaintiff would have maintained her right to renew the action within six months regardless of the statute of limitation having expired after the original action. See Allen v. Kahn, 231 Ga. App. 438, 439 (1998) (ruling that an action is still renewable when a plaintiff dismisses her case before the original trial court rules on the validity of service provided that service was obtained).


Sharpe v. McCartney reminds us that, when a plaintiff’s case is at risk of being dismissed by the court for failure to perfect timely service, it’s very important for the plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss the case without prejudice before the court gives a ruling (provided of course service has been obtained, albeit not in a timely manner). This will allow the plaintiff to obtain the benefit of the six-month renewal statute. 

Citation: Sharpe v. McCartney, No. A23A1550 (Ga. Ct. App. January 17, 2024)

About the Author

Relentless in fighting for her clients, Atlanta personal injury attorney Andrienne McKay specializes in all types of motor vehicle accidents and premises liability cases. Learn more about Andrienne's work with the firm here.