In a recent Georgia slip-and-fall opinion, a state appellate court discussed whether a plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial against a defendant maintenance company. The case affirms the importance of conducting a thorough investigation before filing any Georgia personal injury lawsuit.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s recitation of the facts leading up to the accident, the plaintiff was working at a restaurant when he was asked to empty a grease trap into a dumpster that was located in the rear parking lot of the restaurant. The plaintiff was in the process of walking to the dumpster when he stepped into an uncovered water meter. The plaintiff could not see the hole because he was carrying the grease trap. After tripping over the hole, the plaintiff spilled the hot grease on his face and body. He suffered serious injuries as a result.
Initially, the plaintiff filed a claim against his employer and several other parties. However, later the plaintiff named the defendant maintenance company after learning about a contract that the defendant maintenance company had with the plaintiff’s employer. (Note: this case only deals with the maintenance company; the plaintiff’s other claims were handled in separate cases.)
Evidently, the contract between the plaintiff’s employer and the defendant maintenance company provided that the maintenance company would to sweep the parking lot area. However, the agreement also included additional terms that the plaintiff argued resulted in the company assuming a duty to protect the plaintiff. Specifically, the plaintiff pointed to a term requiring the defendant to report any problems or defects that were discovered during the service visits to the defendant’s employer so that the employer could to fix the problem. The contract also stated that the maintenance company would “plan and conduct the services to safeguard all persons and property from injury.”
The maintenance company argued that it was only responsible for sweeping the parking lot, removing garbage and other debris. The company asserted that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty and therefore could not be held liable for his injuries.
The Court’s Opinion
The court agreed with the plaintiff and allowed his case to proceed towards trial or settlement negotiations. The court explained that, while there may not have been a duty under a typical maintenance contract, the contract in this case created a duty. The court looked at the language of the contract, noting that under its clear language the maintenance company assumed a duty to warn the plaintiff’s employer of any hazards discovered during service visits. Given the contractual language, the court determined that the plaintiff was a third-party beneficiary of the contract. The court also noted that the contract could very easily have included an exclusionary clause, limiting the beneficiaries of the contract; however, no such clause was contained in the contract.
While the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed, the court did not definitively conclude that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, leaving the ultimate question of liability for the jury. In the jury trial phase of this case, the plaintiff will have the burden of proving that the maintenance company knew, or, in the exercise of ordinary care, should have known about the hazard that led to the plaintiff’s trip and fall.
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 injury lawyers at McAleer Law have extensive experience handling all types of Georgia personal injury claims, including slip-and-fall accidents and other Georgia premises liability cases. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Georgia injury attorney about your situation, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.
See More Posts:
Georgia Court Considers Case Involving Car Accident Allegedly Caused by Defendant’s Controlled Burn, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 10, 2018.
Georgia Court Rejects Defendant’s Spoliation Claim Against Personal Injury Plaintiff, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, November 14, 2018.