Property owners and business owners may be liable for injuries or other damages caused by third parties committing criminal acts against members of the public who have been invited onto their property. A recently released decision by the Court of Appeals of Georgia addresses the standards for pursuing a Georgia personal injury lawsuit against a property owner for injuries suffered by a lawful invitee to the premises as a result of the unlawful conduct of a third party.
The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a truck driver who had parked his truck in a lot owned by the defendant as part of an agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff’s employer. The plaintiff woke up in the middle of the night by a man who was parked against his truck and attempting to break-in. The plaintiff opened his door and stepped onto the other man’s truck. The other driver attempted to drive away from the attempted robbery, causing the plaintiff to fall under the moving truck and get run over, which resulted in serious injuries to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff sued the defendant property owner, alleging that the parking lot was supposed to be secure, and that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from any intervening criminal acts committed by third parties. Before trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment against the plaintiff, which was granted by the trial court, which determined as a matter of law that the criminal act was not foreseeable to the defendant, and therefore no cause of action existed.