Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Published on:

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit filed by the surviving spouse of a man who was killed in a farm accident. The case required the court to determine whether the defendant farm owner could be held liable for the death of the plaintiff’s husband. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s husband assumed the risks involved with the work he was doing at the time he died, and therefore his wife was not entitled to pursue a claim against the farm owner.

TractorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was a long-time employee of the defendant farm owner. The defendant and his son trained the plaintiff’s husband on the various tasks that he was to perform around the farm, and they made all necessary tools available for use.

One day, the defendant asked the plaintiff’s husband to remove two large tires from a tractor. The defendant told the plaintiff, however, not to remove the wheels by himself and to get assistance from someone else around the farm. Later that day, the defendant’s father-in-law was playing with his granddaughter when he saw the plaintiff’s husband removing the wheels of the tractor by himself. One of the wheels was easily removed without incident, but the plaintiff’s husband was having difficulty removing the second wheel.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case involving a woman who fell while exiting the defendant church after a funeral. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, based on the allegation that the defendant had no knowledge of the dangerous condition. However, since the court concluded that the lack of a handrail may have constituted a dangerous condition, and there was evidence to show that the defendant had knowledge of the lack of a handrail, the court concluded that summary judgment was not appropriate.

Dark StairwayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was attending a funeral at the defendant church. After the services, the plaintiff began to leave out the front door where she had entered. However, the deacon told her to exit out the back door.

As the plaintiff was leaving out the back door, there were two steps. The plaintiff testified that the steps were dark and steep, and she could not see how many there were. As she tried to navigate her way down the steps, she fell, resulting in serious injuries. The plaintiff also testified that she tried to reach for a handrail as she fell, but one was not installed.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case that was brought by a woman who was seriously injured when a tree that had previously sustained major damage fell on her while a maintenance worker was attempted to safely lower the tree to the ground. The case presented several interesting questions regarding the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court affirmed a lower court ruling that permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial.

Fallen TreeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a tenant at an apartment complex owned and operated by the defendants. During a particularly nasty storm, a tree on an adjacent piece of property sustained major wind damage and toppled over, landing partially on top of the apartment building. The plaintiff was concerned about the danger the tree posed and contacted the defendants, asking them to remove the tree.

After several attempts at contacting the defendants, the tree remained suspended from the apartment building. The plaintiff knew a fellow resident who occasionally worked for the defendants, performing maintenance throughout the complex when it was necessary. The plaintiff contacted the maintenance worker and arranged to have him take down the tree.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case involving the tragic drowning death of a young child at a condominium swimming pool. The case required the court to determine the condo association was liable for the child’s death. Finding that the association was not negligent in any way, the court dismissed the case against the association.

Pool WaterThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the father of a young boy who drowned in a swimming pool that was located at the condominium complex where his aunt lived. At the time of the accident, the aunt was not present, but the boy was with several other family members. According to the evidence presented at trial, the pool was very crowded on the day of the accident, and the young boy was under water for approximately five minutes before he was discovered. There was also some evidence suggesting that the person who called 911 was unable to promptly give the address of the condo complex, potentially delaying the arrival of emergency responders.

After his son’s death, the boy’s father filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association, claiming that the association was negligent for failing to have a lifeguard present, failing to have a safety rope distinguishing the shallow part of the pool from the deep part of the pool, and failing to post a sign with the pool’s address.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought against the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). The case, which was filed by a woman who had slipped and fallen on a train platform, was dismissed by the lower court. In the most recent appellate opinion, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case, based on the finding that the accumulated rainwater should have been expected and that it did not constitute a dangerous condition.

Train StationThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was planning to take a train operated by MARTA. According to the court’s opinion, it had been raining for most of the day. As the plaintiff approached the station, she entered a covered platform area. A few feet from the door of the platform, there was a small puddle of rainwater that had accumulated. No one knew how long the puddle had been present, but the plaintiff claimed that the area where the puddle had formed was darker, and she argued that this suggested there had been an accumulation of water there on-and-off for a number of months or years.

As the plaintiff stepped into the puddle, she slipped and fell. She then filed a premises liability lawsuit against MARTA, claiming that MARTA was negligent in maintaining the train platform and that it should be held liable for her injuries.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by several tenants and their guests against the landlord that owned the home. Ultimately, the court determined that the landlord could not be held liable because of the higher burden premises liability plaintiffs face when naming an out-of-possession landlord as a defendant.

Wooden DeckThe Facts of the Case

The defendant purchased a rental property in 1987. Shortly after purchasing the home, he had a contractor replace the rear deck. The landlord did not supervise the construction of the deck, but he was aware that the deck was fastened to the home using nails rather than lag bolts.

In 2010, the landlord rented the home to the plaintiffs. As a part of the lease agreement, the tenant retained exclusive possession of the property. However, the landlord agreed to make the necessary repairs when notified by the tenant.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who had slipped and fallen at the defendant’s restaurant. Although the defendant did not initially reply to the plaintiff’s complaint, and a default judgment was entered against the defendant, that judgment was reversed on appeal because the plaintiff had never properly served the defendant.

StepsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell while at a restaurant owned by the defendant. After his fall, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the restaurant where he fell. As required by law, the plaintiff attempted to serve the defendant restaurant with notice of the pending case.

The restaurant, however, had a common name, and the owner of the restaurant owned similarly named restaurants. As a result of this confusion, the plaintiff ended up serving the correct owner of the restaurant, but he filed the complaint against one of the owner’s other restaurants. The owner responded that he would not be answering the complaint because it was filed against the wrong entity.

Continue reading

Published on:

In a recent case, a Georgia appeals court considered whether a plaintiff was entitled to recover damages after she tripped on a corn hole game at a car dealership. The plaintiff had gone to the car dealership to look at pickup trucks with her boyfriend. While visiting the dealership, the two walked across the sales floor inside the showroom with a salesperson. There were vehicles on display and a “corn hole” game near the offices for customers to play while they were in the process of purchasing a vehicle. The game had two wooden ramps across from each other, and customers would take turns tossing bean bags into a hole in each ramp.

Knee X-RayThe couple spoke to a salesperson in an office, walked across the sales floor and went outside, and then came back inside, walking across the sales floor again and into an office. As the woman was exiting the office, she turned back to answer a question, then turned around again to walk out, and tripped on the corn hole game. She fell and suffered a torn meniscus in her knee. The woman sued the car dealership for negligently maintaining the corn hole game on the sales floor and failing to warn her of its presence.

Continue reading

Published on:

Plaintiffs in personal injury cases, including premises liability cases, must present evidence proving each of the elements of the claim. In Georgia, for a premises liability case to be successful, there must normally be proof that the property owner knew or should have known there was a hazardous condition on their land, that the property owner failed to remedy the hazardous condition, and that the plaintiff was injured due to the presence of the hazardous condition.

FriesIf a plaintiff is unable to provide a court with proof of each of these elements, then the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s case upon motion from the defendant. A recent case highlights how the inability of a plaintiff to remember exactly how she fell prevented her from recovering for her injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was visiting a fast-food restaurant on a rainy day. The entrance to the restaurant consisted of two different sets of glass double-doors. The plaintiff made it through the first set of double-doors without issue, but couldn’t open the second set of doors.

Continue reading

Published on:

Accidents happen all the time, can happen to anyone, and in many cases, more than one person or entity is at fault. In some cases, the injured party themselves may share in the fault for the accident. However, even when the injured party is partly at fault, they can often still recover compensation as long as the negligence of another party is greater than their own.

Operating RoomContributory and Comparative Negligence

Comparative fault generally considers the fault of the plaintiff in determining if the plaintiff can recover and how much is recoverable. The rules on contributory and comparative negligence are set forth in O.C.G.A. § 51-11-7 and § 51-12-33.

Under Georgia law, if a plaintiff could have avoided the resulting injury by exercising ordinary care, a plaintiff cannot recover.  This particular defense is very difficult for a defendant to prove and, in my practice, I have yet to see it succeed for a defendant.  In addition, a plaintiff who is more than 50 percent liable for his or her injury cannot recover. However, if a plaintiff is 50 percent or less at fault, the plaintiff can still recover for their injuries, and the damages are reduced by the percentage of their fault.

Continue reading