Appellate Court Addresses “Ordinary Care” Requirement in Recent Georgia Premises Liability Lawsuit

Recently, a Georgia appellate court issued an opinion in an appeal of a trial court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant in a premises liability lawsuit. According to the facts as laid out by the court, a grocery store employee drove and parked his work truck in the store’s parking lot. During his daytime shift, he and another co-worker were clearing debris from a bridge on the store’s property. While they were working, the employee noticed a car approach his work truck, and he witnessed the driver get out of his vehicle and into his work truck. The employee approached his truck, and the man in the driver’s seat shot him.

The man’s wife filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store, claiming that they were negligent in failing to maintain, inspect, secure, and manage the parking lot. Further, she claimed that they were negligent in failing to remediate a history of crime in the vicinity. The defendants filed a motion contending that the victim voluntarily chose to join an affray and failed to exercise due care by approaching the man who shot him. The trial court found in the defendant’s favor, noting that the employee put himself in the situation where he was shot. The plaintiff appealed.

In front of the appellate court, the plaintiff claimed the lower court improperly granted summary judgment to the defendant because the employee did not willingly join in a fight and that there was at least a jury question regarding whether his behavior was reasonable. Under Georgia law, after a plaintiff meets the elements of a tort action, they must also overcome any contributory negligence claims. To overcome a defendant’s affirmative contributory negligence defense, the plaintiff must prove that they used ordinary care for their safety and to avoid consequences of a defendant’s apparent negligence. Defendants must present “plain, palpable, and undisputable” proof that a plaintiff failed to exercise ordinary care.

In this case, the court reasoned that there was no evidence that the plaintiff saw that the shooter had a gun in his hand or otherwise knew he was armed. Further, although it seems that the victim ran toward the shooter when he saw him inside his truck without permission, there is no evidence to suggest that he injected himself into an ongoing dangerous situation. Moreover, no evidence shows that the victim had any familiarity or interaction with the shooter. Finally, although it is clear that the victim left a place of safety when he approached his truck, there is nothing to assume that he willingly placed himself in known imminent danger of being murdered. Ultimately, the court found that any evidence of the victim’s negligence was not “plain, palpable, or undisputable.” Therefore, the court held that any genuine issues of material fact regarding ordinary care should be determined by a jury, and the lower court improperly granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Consult With an Experienced Premises Liability Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured while on another’s property, contact the Georgia premises liability attorneys at McAleer Law. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of Georgia accident cases, including those arising from slip and fall accidents, car and truck crashes, and medical malpractice claims. Our skilled attorneys and support staff have successfully represented Georgia injury victims in even the most challenging cases, and we routinely obtain significant compensation awards on behalf of our clients for their injuries and losses. To learn more, and to schedule your free consultation, contact us at 404-622-5337. You can also reach us through our online form.

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