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Georgia Court Discusses Store’s Duty to Maintain the Area Immediately Outside Its Entranceways

In a recent Georgia premises liability case, a court discussed a store’s obligation to maintain the area immediately around the entranceway into the building. Ultimately, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case after finding that store’s parking lot was not included in the area that the store was required to maintain.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff had just finished shopping at a Big Lots store and was walking back to her car when she slipped and fell after stepping in a wet substance in the store’s parking lot. The plaintiff was injured as a result of the fall and filed a Georgia premises liability lawsuit against Big Lots, arguing that the store was responsible for keeping its parking lot free of hazards.

The evidence presented showed that the plaintiff’s fall occurred about 45 feet from the door to the store. Additionally, the Big Lots was located in a shopping center that was owned by a third-party company, which was in charge of maintaining the parking lots. After the plaintiff fell, the store manager came out to clean up the spill, explaining, “if there’s something that needs to be handled immediately … we would take care of that ourselves temporarily until someone could get there … but the parking lot has always been handled by the landlord.”

The plaintiff brought her case under OCGA § 51-3-1, which states that a landowner “is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” The plaintiff argued that the parking lot was part of the “approach” to the store, and thus Big Lots was responsible for exercising ordinary care in keeping the area safe.

Big Lots argued that the parking lot was too far away from the store’s entrance-ways to be considered an “approach.” In support of its position, Big Lots highlighted the fact that the plaintiff’s fall occurred 45 feet from the doorway and that the parking lot was maintained by the shopping center.

The court agreed with Big Lots, defining the term “approach” contained in § 51-3-1 narrowly. Specifically, the court held that the approach is the area “directly contiguous, adjacent to, and touching” the entrance into the store. This, the court held, was really just the “last few steps” a customer would take before entering the store.

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the store manager’s actions in coming out to clean up the spill indicated that a duty existed. The court explained that a business must do more than attempt to clean up a hazard to give rise to a duty that the law did not otherwise impose. For example, the court noted that if Big Lots had constructed a wheelchair ramp or put in the sidewalk outside the store, it may be liable for injuries occurring on those fixtures.

Have You Been injured in a Georgia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Georgia personal injury lawyers at McAleer Law have decades of experience representing injury victims and their families recover the compensation they need and deserve following a serious accident. To learn more, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney 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.

Court Discusses “Distraction Doctrine” in Recent Restaurant Slip-and-Fall Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, August 13, 2018.