Georgia Court of Appeals Finds University Was Not Liable Following Dorm Room Accident

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.

On appeal, the court ruled in favor of the university, finding that the mere fact that the plaintiff fell, does not give rise to liability for the university. In Georgia, to prevail in a premises liability claim, a plaintiff must prove (1) the owner had actual knowledge of the hazard and (2) that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite exercising ordinary care. In addition, Georgia law mandates that a plaintiff cannot recover damages if, by ordinary care, they could have avoided the consequences of the defendant’s negligence.

Although the university was aware of the lofted bed in the plaintiff’s dorm room, the plaintiff also had equal knowledge that it was raised off the ground and lacked guardrails. In fact, the court argued, the plaintiff slept in the bed for three months before she fell and suffered her accident. This was evidence that the hazard was open and obvious and that the danger was apparent and avoidable through reasonable care. In addition, because the plaintiff installed a safety rail when she returned in the spring, she had knowledge of the danger posed by the bed.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Premises Liability Accident?

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Georgia premises liability accident, contact the attorneys at McAleer Law. Our experienced team of lawyers has worked on personal injury claims of all kinds, and understands the importance of zealous representation at every step. At McAleer Law, our attorneys will advocate tirelessly on your behalf to help you and your loved ones pursue the compensation you deserve. To learn more, schedule a free consultation today by calling us 404-622-5337.

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