Georgia Court Allows Maintenance Worker’s Premises Liability Case to Proceed Against Apartment Complex

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit discussing whether a maintenance worker’s claim against an apartment complex could proceed under a premises liability theory. The court concluded that the worker did not assume the risk of injury because the nature of the work he was hired to complete did not put him on notice regarding the risk that ultimately led to his death.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was employed as a maintenance worker and was hired by the defendant apartment complex for occasional odd-jobs. Apparently, among the jobs the defendant asked the plaintiff to complete was to change the lightbulbs atop four light posts surrounding the complex’s tennis courts.

Evidently, the plaintiff changed the light bulbs once in the past by affixing two ladders together to reach the top of the light posts. When the defendant asked the plaintiff to replace the bulbs a second time, the plaintiff requested that the defendant rent a scissor lift because the poles were so high. The defendant rejected the plaintiff’s request, and the plaintiff agreed to change the light bulbs using the two-ladder system he had previously used. As the plaintiff was replacing one of the bulbs, the base of the pole snapped. The plaintiff fell to his death.

The plaintiff’s family filed a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit against the apartment complex. In response, the defendant claimed that it could not be held liable under the “hired worker” exception, which holds that an employee who is asked to work in an “inherently and obviously unsafe area” cannot hold the property owner liable for injuries that “arose from or were incidental to the work undertaken by him.”

The Court’s Decision

The court concluded that the hired-worker exception did not apply to this case, and held that the plaintiff’s claim should proceed towards trial against the apartment complex. The court noted that a landowner is generally responsible for maintaining a safe location for hired workers, and it is only when the worker voluntarily or recklessly puts himself in harm’s way that the hired-worker exception applies.

Here, the court held that the plaintiff did not voluntarily or recklessly expose himself to the danger that ultimately led to his death. The court explained that the plaintiff was not hired to work on or repair the pole itself, but was only required to change the bulbs at the top of the pole. And while the height of the pole may have been a risk the plaintiff accepted, he would have no way of knowing about the condition of the pole. The court held that the work the plaintiff was hired to complete did not include the risks that led to his death, and thus, the hired-worker exception did not apply.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Workplace Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia workplace accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia personal injury lawsuit. At McAleer Law, we represent injury victims in all types of Georgia wrongful death and personal injury cases, including those arising from slip-and-fall accidents. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your matter with a dedicated Georgia personal injury lawyer, call 404-622-5337 today.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Permits Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case to Proceed against Maintenance Company, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 18, 2018.

Georgia Court Rejects Defendant’s Spoliation Claim Against Personal Injury Plaintiff, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, November 14, 2018.