Georgia Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Theory that Independent Contractor Was Liable for Slip-and-Fall Accident

On March 12, 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia slip-and-fall case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim against a security company was properly dismissed at the summary judgment stage. Ultimately, the court concluded that the property owner had a non-delegable duty to ensure the safety of its guests, and as a result, the defendants did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. Thus, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her spouse visited AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta to pick up a gift for a friend. The couple obtained their security badges without issue, but as the plaintiff walked through the security checkpoint, she tripped on a rubber mat that was under a table where the security officer sat. The plaintiff seriously injured her hip, requiring surgery and subsequent physical therapy. At the time, a security guard who was employed by a company that was contracted to provide security to AmericasMart.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against AmericasMart, the security company, as well as the security officer. The security company and the officer moved for summary judgment, claiming that they were not owners or occupiers of the area where the plaintiff fell, and that they owed her no duty of care. The trial court agreed with the defendants and granted their motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff filed an appeal.

On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. The court first noted that the plaintiff was a business invitee of AmericasMart. The court explained that under Georgia premises liability law, owners of property have a non-delegable duty to provide for the safety of guests and an owner “cannot insulate itself from liability by hiring an independent contractor.”

Based on the facts presented, the court held that there was no evidence indicating that the security officer or her employer was an owner or occupier of the area where the plaintiff fell. Thus, neither party had a duty to ensure the area was safe for shoppers.

The plaintiff argued that the security company voluntarily assumed a duty to provide for her safety when it agreed to provide security services at AmericasMart. The court rejected this argument on two grounds. First, that the plaintiff was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract between AmericasMart and the security company, and thus could not benefit from the agreement between those parties. Second, the court drew a distinction between providing security services and assuming a responsibility to ensure that the premises was free from hazards.

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 for the injuries you have sustained. At McAleer Law, we represent injury victims in all types of personal injury cases, including Georgia premises liability cases. To learn more about how we can assist you with your claim, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.