Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case requiring the court to determine whether the owner of an auto repair shop could be held liable for the actions of a mechanic who leased a portion of the shop from the owner. Ultimately, the court concluded that the owner’s duty to safely maintain the shop was non-delegable, and thus the court upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff took his car to a repair shop that was owned by the defendant. The defendant leased a portion of his shop to another mechanic. The agreement required that the mechanic obtain liability insurance and also stated that the mechanic would hold the defendant “harmless from any liability or damage, whether caused by [the mechanic’s] operations or otherwise.” The mechanic never obtained liability insurance coverage.
Evidently, the mechanic greeted the plaintiff, and agreed to look at his car. The mechanic pulled the plaintiff’s car into one of the shop’s bays, and placed it up on a lift. The mechanic discovered an oil leak and then lowered the car. However, as the vehicle reached the ground, it crushed the plaintiff’s foot.
The plaintiff filed a Georgia personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant testified that he was present on the day of the accident, and used the shop on a regular basis. He also testified that although he knew that the area was dangerous, he allowed customers to enter the shop to use the restroom, which was located across the shop floor. The defendant admitted that he maintained a private bathroom for his use that was not accessible through the shop.
In response to the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant claimed that under the lease he could not be held liable for the negligence of the mechanic. In the alternative, the defendant claimed that neither he nor the mechanic was negligent. The jury, however, returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, divvying up fault as follows:
- 33% to the defendant personally,
- 33% to the shop,
- 32% to the mechanic, and
- 2% to the plaintiff.
The jury also determined that the defendant should not be able to recoup any of the damages he owed to the plaintiff from the mechanic. The defendant appealed.
The Court’s Opinion
On appeal, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict. The court explained that as an owner of the shop, the defendant had a non-delegable duty to maintain the shop in a reasonably safe condition. This duty is only discharged if a landowner delivers “full possession and complete control” to another party.
Here, the court held that the defendant did not give up full possession or control of the shop because he continued to use the bays and maintained a desk in the office area. Also, the court relied on the fact that the defendant would allow customers to remain in the shop area despite knowing it was dangerous. The court also held that the evidence presented was sufficient to establish that both the defendant and the mechanic were negligent.
Have You Been Injured?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Georgia personal injury attorneys at McAleer Law have extensive experience handling a wide range of personal injury cases, including Georgia slip-and-fall accidents. We provide free consultations to accident victims to discuss your situation in more detail as well as how we can help. To learn more, call 404-622-5337 to schedule your free consultation today.
See More Posts:
Georgia Court Upholds Residential Lease Clause Limiting Amount of Time Tenant Had to File Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Landlord, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, August 15, 2018.
Georgia Court Discusses Store’s Duty to Maintain the Area Immediately Outside Its Entranceways, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, October 19, 2018.