In a recent Georgia personal injury case, the Georgia Court of Appeals found that a woman’s claim could continue against a store after she allegedly stepped on an anti-theft pin in the store.
The Facts of the Case
The woman was shopping with her daughter at a clothing store and stepped on the anti-theft sensor pin on the floor. The pin was about the size of a thumb tack and went through the woman’s sandal, puncturing her foot. She alleged that the pin caused her permanent nerve and tissue damage. The woman claimed that at the time, she was shopping with her daughter and held up a piece of clothing to her daughter, while an employee was unloading new clothing nearby. She explained that three other employees were standing behind the cash registers about four or five feet away. None of the employees or the woman saw the pin before the woman stepped on it, and it was not clear how long the pin had been on the floor.
The woman filed a premises liability claim against the store, alleging that the store breached its duty of care by failing to keep the premises free from hazardous conditions that were present or that the store should have known were present.
The trial judge originally granted summary judgment in favor of the store, finding that the store did not have superior knowledge of the hazard. However, the court of appeals reversed, finding that the court was wrong in granting summary judgment in favor of the store because there were genuine issues of material fact about the store employees’ knowledge of the hazard. The court decided that although the store did not have actual knowledge that the pin was on the floor, it may have had constructive knowledge.
Constructive Knowledge in Premises Liability Claims
In Georgia, an owner or occupier of land has a duty to exercise ordinary care in maintaining its premises so that they do not pose an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm to those invited on its premises. To show that a property owner or occupier is liable, an “invitee” has to show that the defendant had knowledge (actual or constructive) and that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite exercising ordinary care.
A plaintiff can demonstrate a property owner or occupier had “constructive knowledge” of a hazard if: “(1) a store employee was in the immediate area of the hazard and could have easily seen the [foreign object] or (2) the foreign [object] remained long enough that ordinary diligence by the store employees should have discovered it.” If a defendant does not have a reasonable inspection procedure in place, constructive knowledge may be inferred. That is, if the owner did not have a reasonable inspection procedure or failed to actually use the procedure at the time of the incident, the plaintiff may be able to show the owner had constructive knowledge.
The Court’s Decision
For the woman to show that the store had constructive knowledge, she had to show:
- 1) there was an employee in the immediate area of the pin who could easily have seen it; or
- 2) the pin was on the floor long enough that the employees should have discovered it through ordinary diligence.
The court found that there was no evidence to conclude that an employee was in a position to have easily seen it, but the pin may have been on the floor long enough that employees should have discovered it through ordinary diligence. The store did not introduce any evidence of a policy or procedure requiring employees to inspect the store for hazards during working hours. Therefore, it was not clear that the store’s procedures or practices were sufficient to guard against hazards. In addition, the store knew of the danger of loose pins because its employee manual stated that employees should make sure that pins were kept off the floor because they could be stepped on and cause injuries.
Contact a Georgia Injury Attorney
Slip-and-fall accidents often occur at stores, in parking lots, and on city sidewalks. If you have been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident, contact a dedicated Atlanta personal injury attorney. At the McAleer Law Firm, our firm has a proven track record of results, and each year we recover millions of dollars for our clients. For a free initial consultation, call the McAleer Law Firm at 404-622-5337 or fill out our online contact form.
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Georgia Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Defendant in Recent Car Accident Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, July 5, 2017.
New Georgia DUI Law Goes into Effect, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, August 9, 2017.