Georgia Appellate Court Puts Plaintiffs’ Case in Free Fall

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.

The 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.

Around the time that the new tenants moved in, the landlord replaced a few boards on the deck and conducted a visual inspection. The landlord testified that he did not notice anything that needed replacing and that the general condition of the deck was good.

Approximately one year later, the plaintiffs hosted a barbecue out on the back deck. At some point during the barbecue, the back deck broke away from the home, and the portion of the deck nearest the home fell to the ground. Several of the people on the deck at the time were injured and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the landlord.

A code enforcement officer inspected the home and what remained of the deck shortly after the collapse, noting that the deck seemed to have been up to code and that there would not have been any visual clues that the deck was dangerous.

The landlord moved for summary judgment, arguing that as an out-of-possession landlord, he can only be held liable for injuries related to faulty construction or a failure to repair. The trial court determined that there was some evidence suggesting that the landlord should have known that the deck was in need of repair and denied the motion. The landlord appealed.

On appeal, the case was reversed. The court held that the landlord could not be held liable for the construction of the deck – even if it was faulty – because he had hired an independent contractor to build the deck. Similarly, the court determined that the landlord could not be held liable for failing to repair the deck because he was not put on notice by the tenants that the deck needed to be repaired. As a result, the plaintiffs’ case was dismissed.

Have You Been Injured on the Property of Another Party?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident, or while on the property of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. Generally speaking, landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property. If this duty is violated, the property owner may be liable for any injuries caused as a result. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the McAleer Law Firm have extensive experience representing injured clients in a wide array of personal injury cases. Call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

See More Posts:

Anyone Can be the Victim of Negligent Conduct — Jury Awards Doctor $7 Million after Slip-and-Fall Accident in Operating Room, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, March 2, 2017.

Plaintiff Receives $21 Million After Wife Suffers Catastrophic Brain Damage During Back Procedure, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, February 10, 2017.

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