Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

Recently, a Georgia woman filed a lawsuit against a hotel after she sustained injuries when she slipped and fell on a wet sidewalk outside of the hotel. The hotel appealed after a trial court denied its motion for summary judgment. The appellate court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff had superior knowledge of the hazardous condition and if she assumed the risk of the hazard.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her grandchildren were staying at the hotel when they decided to go to the pool after dinner. After spending time at the pool, the plaintiff and her grandson decided to go back to their room. They took the same path to the hotel room that they had taken on their way to the pool. The woman’s grandson did not dry off and was walking in front of the plaintiff when the woman noticed that part of the sidewalk’s surface was peeling off. She warned her grandson to slow down, however, she ended up slipping and falling, resulting in serious injuries.

The woman filed a negligence lawsuit seeking to recover for the damages she suffered as a result of her fall. In support of her claim, she provided an expert affidavit, which stated that the defendant failed to maintain the sidewalk safely. The expert opined that the sidewalk’s deteriorated paint increased the likelihood that it would become slick and unsafe when it was wet.

The availability of evidence in a Georgia personal injury case can often make or break a lawsuit, especially when a party is acting in reliance on the opposition for certain information pertinent to the case. Unfortunately, bad actors will occasionally engage in the “spoliation of the evidence,” which can often have significant consequences in the course of a lawsuit.

In Georgia, “spoliation of evidence” can arise in many settings. According to Georgia law, spoliation involves “the destruction or failure to preserve evidence that is necessary to contemplated or pending litigation.” This could mean that an individual purposely destroyed or chose not to preserve necessary evidence – common examples are intentionally getting rid of camera footage or destroying paperwork.  In addition, the evidence in question must be necessary and serve a central purpose in the case. A spoliation of the evidence claim can only prevail if the individual in control of the evidence is aware that there is or could be a lawsuit. As long as a claim is “reasonably foreseeable,” then they are responsible for saving relevant documents and materials.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, a couple sued a restaurant entity for negligence after their minor son was injured on an outdoor restaurant playground at one of the restaurant’s franchise locations. While waiting on a table, the children played on the outdoor playground. It was a sunny, 80- to 90-degree day, and one of the plaintiffs concluded that the floor was “pretty warm, but no big deal.” Soon after, he discovered that the bottom of his 19-month-old son’s feet were badly burned. His son was subsequently taken to a local emergency room for treatment.

With the school year well underway, many students have returned to their college campuses. Whether your child is just starting their college journey or returning for their final year, no one expects to get hurt while living on campus. However, when these accidents occur, those responsible for causing the accident can often be held liable for any resulting injuries.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals opinion, a student sued a university after she suffered an accident in her dorm room. When the student moved in to begin her freshman year of college, her dorm room had two raised beds. One of the beds was higher than the other, and by the time the plaintiff arrived, her roommate had already chosen the lower bed. Initially, the plaintiff wanted to lower her bed, and submitted an online maintenance request, but the school never fulfilled the request. In addition, there was no ladder for the plaintiff to climb into the bed. Thus, to get onto her bed, the student had to step on a desk first and then climb in.

Following a Halloween party and a few drinks, the plaintiff arrived home and fell asleep. She fell out of her lofted bed, blacked out, and suffered serious injuries. After the accident, the plaintiff had to medically withdraw from her classes and was only able to return briefly in the spring before withdrawing again because of the severity of her injuries. For the brief time the plaintiff was back at school that Spring, she purchased a bed rail on her own and lowered the height of her bed to that of her roommate’s. Subsequently, the plaintiff sued the university, claiming it was negligent in failing to provide safety rails on the raised bed. She argued that the university’s failure to do so was the proximate cause of her injuries. The university appealed after unsuccessfully moving for summary judgment.

Although a lawsuit may seem straightforward as a dispute between two or more parties, there are often many procedural details that occur behind the scenes that act as stepping stones in the course of litigation. Understanding and navigating these procedural requirements can often be challenging, but can also save parties time and money during the course of a lawsuit when appropriately handled by an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals case, the court considered a misunderstanding in a dispute concerning an important procedural issue. The plaintiff filed a suit against the defendant for a slip and fall action four days before the statute of limitations for her case was set to expire. The plaintiff did not serve the defendant until 12 weeks later. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to present evidence that she had exercised proper diligence in attempting service after the statute of limitations expired.

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s decision, siding with the plaintiff. Because the plaintiff’s counsel was a member of the Georgia General Assembly, he was entitled to a statutory leave of court, which he had properly requested. This meant that the plaintiff’s counsel was entitled to an extension and temporarily relief from responding to the motions. Further, because the plaintiff relied on the court approving a scheduling order that both parties agreed to, the trial court erred in granting a motion to dismiss because the plaintiff was within the correct time frame and had no further obligation to respond.

We’ve all seen a “wet floor” sign at some point in our lives. Maybe you’ve even been unlucky and slipped on an unknown substance while grocery shopping. When slip and fall accidents occur as a result of another’s negligence, the business or individual who owns the property may be held liable through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, a plaintiff slipped and fell on a wet floor at the Atlanta airport where she was employed and sued the defendant for negligence, arguing that the defendant had superior knowledge of the slippery floor and a duty to warn her of the hazard. Because they failed to warn her, the plaintiff argued that the defendant breached its duty and failed to exercise ordinary care.

On the day of the incident, the plaintiff had completed her shift in the airport atrium and proceeded down the escalator to stop at an office to turn in her paperwork and cash. As she stepped off the escalator, she noticed a man cleaning the floors to her left and a “wet floor” sign posted nearby. As she was walking to the office, she turned to the right and slipped and fell. Landing on her right side, she hit her head and briefly lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, her clothes were wet, but there was no visible water on the floor and there were no visible wet floor signs near where she fell. Following the accident, the plaintiff suffered from blurred vision and significant neck and spinal injuries that required surgery. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an appeal from a judgment in favor of a plaintiff in her lawsuit against the City of Atlanta. The woman filed a lawsuit to recover for damages she incurred after driving into an open manhole. The woman contended that the government should be liable for her injuries because the manhole was a public nuisance. The city appealed a jury finding in favor of the woman, arguing that the woman did not meet her evidentiary burden.

Under Georgia law, a municipality “may be held liable for damages it causes to a third party from the operation or maintenance of a nuisance, irrespective of whether it is exercising a governmental or municipal function.” To recover for damages plaintiffs must present evidence that:

  1. The severity of the defect is a result of conduct that exceeds mere negligence;

In a recent appellate opinion, a Georgia slip and fall injury victim appealed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a store owner. On appeal, the woman argued that the trial court erred in finding that the store did not contain a dangerous condition, that she possessed knowledge of the defects, and that the distraction theory could not apply.

The case stems from injuries that the woman suffered when she visited the store. The woman’s neighbor drove her to the store and parked her car on the side of the store. The parking lot contained parking abutments in the parking spaces; parking for disabled vehicles had blue abutments. When the woman was leaving the store, she walked by a sidewalk display and became distracted by the display racks and other customers. As she stepped down from the sidewalk, she hit a slanted parking abutment and fell forward, suffering serious injuries to her knee, elbow, and head. Her lawsuit against the store alleged that the store breached its duty to keep their property safe.

Under Georgia law, premises liability plaintiffs must show that their injuries were the result of a hazard on an owner’s premises that they should have removed in the exercise of ordinary care. The two main elements that Georgia slip and fall or trip and fall victims must establish is that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and the plaintiff, despite exhibiting ordinary care, lacked knowledge of the danger because of the defendant. Moreover, where static conditions are at issue, if a person has previously successfully negotiated the condition, the person is presumed to have equal knowledge, and therefore cannot recover for subsequent resulting injuries. Further, if nothing obstructs the injury victim’s view, the owner may appropriately assume that the invitee will realize any associated risks. In these instances, plaintiffs may assert the distraction theory. The distraction theory includes situations where the plaintiff’s attention is distracted because of a natural and usual cause. However, merely failing to look ahead will not relieve their responsibility.

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued an opinion in a lawsuit brought by a surviving spouse of a man who died after falling into an open well. The man was driving his four-wheeler on a tract of land when his wheel entered a well that was covered by vegetation. His vehicle flipped over, and the man fell into the well.

The man’s wife filed a negligence lawsuit against several parties, including a forestry services company, based on OCGA § 44-1-14, which requires that individuals must report abandoned wells located on any public or private property to relevant county officials. She argued that the forestry company performed work on the property and negligently failed to report the well to the property owner. The defendant asked the court to dismiss the case because, amongst other issues, the plaintiff was unable to present evidence that the defendant knew of the well before her husband’s death or breached any duty to him.

Under Georgia law, plaintiffs in negligence actions must provide evidence that the defendant owed a legal duty to the victim, that they breached that duty, that a causal connection exists between the conduct and injury, and that the plaintiff suffered damages. In this case, the plaintiff argued that the defendant was liable under the theory of negligence per se for violating OCGA § 44-1-14 because they did not report the well.

A state appellate court recently issued an opinion addressing an issue that frequently comes up in premises liability cases.  Specifically, the case involved the “superior knowledge” requirement.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered injuries when he fell through a skylight that he was dismantling at a church. The church recently purchased a building from a defunct hospital, and the plaintiff, another church member, and a pastor undertook the disassembling. The plaintiff volunteered to remove the structure based on his previous experience working with a contractor to rebuild a shed at his house. The pastor at the church used a forklift to lift the plaintiff and the other church member onto the roof. No one was wearing a hardhat or any other safety harnesses. The plaintiff did not hear a warning to watch out for a skylight and subsequently fell through the light and suffered severe injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the church and the hospital. He alleged that the church was liable because he was an invitee of the church, so the hospital and the church owed him a duty to exercise reasonable care to make sure that the roof was safe.

Under Georgia law, the crux of a premises liability lawsuit often hinges on the property owner’s superior knowledge of the dangerous condition. Plaintiffs cannot recover damages if they could have avoided their injuries by exercising ordinary care. Furthermore, Georgia courts generally look at whether the plaintiff exhibited common sense to prevent their injuries. Usually, Georgia slip and fall cases involve two types of cases:  static defect claims and foreign substance claims.

Sometimes, accidents happen out of pure chance or bad luck, with no one to blame. Often, however, accidents resulting in injuries are preventable and caused by someone else’s negligence. In these cases, Georgia law allows the victim, hurt because of someone else’s actions, to file suit to recover monetary damages. Damages in a Georgia personal injury accident can cover past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. For this reason, these civil suits are incredibly important to victims and their families in the aftermath of an accident, especially a costly one. Thus, plaintiffs must understand all the rules governing personal injury lawsuits fully, because one mistake could result in the case being dismissed, and the plaintiff barred from recovery.

One of the important aspects of filing a suit to keep in mind is the rules governing notice. Plaintiffs, when they file a lawsuit, are required to notify the other party. The rules of notice may change depending on the defendant. For instance, in Georgia, a plaintiff filing a suit against a city must do so per Georgia Code § 36-33-5-(e). This notice must be ante litem, or given in advance of the filing of the case. This means plaintiffs have to let the city know they intend on suing the city before the actual lawsuit can be filed. This notice must include a number of specific things, and failure to properly notify a city properly will result in the claim being dismissed, regardless of what the city did.

For example, take a recent Georgia Appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she attended a street festival in the city. During this festival, she stepped into a hole in a crosswalk area and suffered a broken leg, requiring surgery and physical therapy. According to the plaintiff, residents complained about this hole to the city previously, but the city failed to fix it. The plaintiff, intending to sue the city for negligence, filed a complaint and provided ante litem notice to the city. However, the court ultimately dismissed her case, because she failed to include everything needed in the notice. Specifically, OCGA § 36-33-5 (e) requires a plaintiff to include the specific amount of monetary damages sought from the city, and the plaintiff only said that “the value may exceed $300,000.00.” Because of this, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed and she was unable to proceed in her suit against the city, even though she had been injured.

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