Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion stemming from a Georgia slip and fall lawsuit. According to the record, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant on May 24, 2019, for injuries she suffered on May 28, 2017. The plaintiff served the defendant with the summons and complaint on August 23, 2019. In response, the defendant answered, claiming that the plaintiff’s service occurred after the applicable statute of limitations. The case illustrates the importance of acting with haste when filing a personal injury claim.

According to the court’s opinion, the parties agreed upon a scheduling order and submitted it to the court. The order notified the court that the plaintiff’s attorney’s co-counsel was a General Assembly member, and was entitled to a statutory leave of court, starting on January 6, 2020. However, on December 13, 2019, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint based on the statute of limitations. The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to effectuate service. The plaintiff’s response was due on January 13, 2020; however, she did not respond, and the court dismissed her claims. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in ignoring co-counsel’s statutory leave, when it granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

In Georgia law, if an attorney is a member of the General Assembly, the court must grant a continuance and stay of all aspects of the pending case. This includes the requirement that the attorney respond to any pending motions. However, the text of the statute is unclear whether it only applies to the lead counsel or, as is the case here, to co-counsel as well.

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued an opinion in a case concerning a ridiculous plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit against a university. This student sued Valdosta State claiming that by putting here in the top bunk, they were responsible when she got drunk and fell out of bed months later!

The record indicates that the plaintiff moved into a dorm room that contained two lofted beds. The plaintiff wanted the bed in the lower position, but her roommate had already chosen that bed. The plaintiff submitted a request to the housing department to have her bed lowered; however, the request was never fulfilled. As a result, the plaintiff had to step on a desk to reach the top of her bed.

On the night of the accident, the plaintiff attended a Halloween party and consumed a few beers throughout the party. When she returned to her dorm room, she got into her bed. The last thing she remembers is falling out of her bed and blacking out. The incident resulted in serious injuries requiring surgery and a stay in the intensive care unit. The plaintiff had to withdraw from the university and could not continue her studies because of cognitive difficulties related to injuries she sustained from the fall.

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Georgia slip and fall law is anchored by the idea that legal blame rests on the owner of the property or creator of the spill only if the faller does not have knowledge or warning of the hazard. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently issued an opinion in a premises liability lawsuit stemming from a slip and

fall accident at an airport. The plaintiff, a general manager at a stand at the Atlanta airport, stepped off an escalator and slipped on a puddle of water. The woman landed on her side, hit her head, and lost consciousness. After regaining consciousness, she realized her clothes were wet but did not recall seeing the wet floor where she fell. As a result of the fall, she suffered serious injuries to her neck, spinal cord, and vision. A supervisor inspected the area and did not see any water, but he did notice three wet floor signs and that proved the undoing of the case

The woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the independent contractor responsible for servicing the area. She argued that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard and had the duty to warn the plaintiff of the hazard. She claimed that the defendant breached their duty and failed to exercise ordinary care. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had equal knowledge of the hazard. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion saying that once the wet floor signs are put up, the plaintiff has equal knowledge that the floor is wet.

A recent appeals case involving a store employee who was shot when he challenged a potential car thief in a parking lot illustrates the challenges that each fact pattern can represent. The opinion involving a Georgia premises liability claim stemming from a tragic murder at the grocery store.

According to the court’s opinion, a grocery store employee drove to work in his truck and parked it in the store’s parking lot. At work, he was assigned to clean debris from the store’s property. While he was working, the employee saw a car park next to the employee’s work truck. An individual exited the vehicle and approached the employee’s truck suspiciously. The employee and his co-worker ran towards the truck and approached the car. When the employee approached the window, a man shot and killed him.

The employee’s surviving spouse (the plaintiff) filed a lawsuit against the grocery store, claiming the store’s negligence was responsible for her husband’s death. Specifically, the plaintiff’s claim alleged that the store was negligent in failing to maintain, inspect, and manage the premises. Further, she contended that the grocery store was negligent in failing to warn and remediate a long history of crime at the property.

Can you sue a hotel for a slip and fall at the pool? The Court of Appeals in Georgia recently issued an opinion in a slip and fall lawsuit against a hotel that sheds some light on what facts support a valid lawsuit against the hotel.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries after falling on a wet sidewalk near the hotel’s pool. Evidently, on the evening of the incident, the woman and her grandchildren were leaving the pool when she noticed that the hotel’s sidewalk was shiny and looked “slick.” Her grandson was walking in front of her, still wet from the pool, and she warned him to slow down. However, shortly after warning her grandson, she slipped on the wet sidewalk and fell.

The heart of the claim for why the hotel was responsible and not the grandma is that the paint on the sidewalk had deteriorated to the point that it no longer had “grip” and was slippery instead. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented an expert witness affidavit, stating that, in the expert’s opinion, the hotel failed to maintain the sidewalk in a safe condition. The affidavit indicated that the deteriorating sidewalk paint was hazardous, especially when it became wet.

Slip and falls are not like car accidents. It’s not the property owner’s fault unless they knew about the danger and you did not and as the injured party, you have to prove that you have a chance of success on those points to the judge if you want to be allowed to get to a jury. A Georgia state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a case where the injured plaintiff tried her case to a jury and lost. The jury found in favor of a defendant in the Georgia slip and fall lawsuit.

The Case: Ridley v. Dolgencorp, LLC

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff filed the lawsuit after she was injured while she was exiting the defendant’s store. Evidently, when the woman was exiting the store, she got distracted by other patrons and a display rack on the sidewalk. While looking at the rack, the plaintiff stepped down off the sidewalk onto the pavement. As she stepped down, her shoe hit a slanted parking abutment, and she tripped over the abutment and fell forward, seriously injuring her head, elbow, and knees.

The woman alleged that she suffered injuries because the company breached its duty to keep the premises safe. The defendant filed for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff did not meet her evidentiary burden. Under Georgia law, an individual who suffers injuries on another’s property may bring a premises liability lawsuit against the property or landowner. The law does not impose liability merely because the accident occurred on the owner or occupier’s land. Instead, the injury victim must establish that the Georgia property owner was negligent.

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When someone is injured on the property of a commercial business, such as a grocery store, the injured party may pursue a claim for compensation against the owner of the property by filing a Georgia premises liability case. To succeed in a Georgia slip-and-fall case, an injury victim must be able to establish, among other things, that the defendant landowner had either actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard.

In cases where a landowner had actual knowledge of a hazard, establishing this knowledge is typically straightforward. However, in the majority of Georgia slip-and-fall cases, the defendant landowner disclaims any knowledge of the hazard. In these situations, the plaintiff must show that the landowner had constructive knowledge. Constructive knowledge is a legal concept in which a court attributes the knowledge of certain facts to a party based on the surrounding circumstances. In Georgia slip-and-fall cases, a plaintiff can prove constructive knowledge by showing that either:

  • the landowner or an employee was in the area of the hazard but failed to clean it up; or
  • the hazard was present for a sufficient time that the landowner should have discovered its existence through reasonable inspection procedures.

A recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Georgia illustrates how courts review these slip-and-fall claims.
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The first few decisions a Georgia personal injury plaintiff makes can be critical to the ultimate success of their case. In a recent Georgia premises liability case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case as untimely because the plaintiff originally named the wrong party as a defendant. By the time the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her initial complaint and refiled a complaint naming the correct defendant, the statute of limitations had expired.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured at a water park. Just a few days before the statute of limitations expired the plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit naming “Georgia Department of Natural Resources d/b/a Summer Waves Water Park” as a defendant. Later, the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew that case and refiled a case naming “Jekyll Island State Park Authority, a/k/a Jekyll Island Authority, d/b/a Summer Waves Water Park” as the defendant. The two claims were based on the same injuries. The plaintiff claimed that the subsequent case was a renewal action and that it related back to the date of her original complaint.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s case was filed after the statute of limitations, and should be dismissed. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s second case was not a renewal action because it named a different defendant. The trial court agreed with the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

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In a recent Georgia premises liability case before a Georgia appeals court, the plaintiff filed a premises liability claim after she fell at a medical office. Evidently, she was walking next to the lobby desk inside the medical office as she felt something grab her pant leg, causing her to fall. After her fall, the plaintiff saw that a wheelchair was sitting next to the lobby desk.

A desk attendant who helped her up testified that she also saw the wheelchair there when the plaintiff fell, but that it had not been there a few moments earlier when she had walked away from the desk. The medical office argued that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that she had tripped over the wheelchair or that the medical office had superior knowledge of that hazard.

Actual and Constructive Knowledge

Under OCGA § 51-3-1, a landowner who invites others onto the property for a lawful purpose is liable for injuries caused by the owner’s “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In a slip-and-fall case, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite having exercised ordinary care because of the actions or conditions within the owner’s control.

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It is a tough lesson to learn but in Georgia you don’t have a claim for a slip and fall if there are wet floor signs and you still slip and fall. Remember the law does not require stores to be perfect, you just have to give customers a head’s up when there is a hazard like a wet floor. The Court of Appeal recently reaffirmed that when the ruled on a fall at Home Depot. Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia slip-and-fall case discussing the state’s distraction doctrine. Ultimately, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant hardware store because the plaintiff failed to notice a hazard that the court determined to be open and obvious.

In Georgia personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. This requires the court to determine each party’s relative awareness of the hazard. A plaintiff, however, cannot benefit from exercising ordinary care while on another’s property. Thus, if a hazard is open and obvious and the plaintiff fails to notice it, the plaintiff may be precluded from pursuing a claim against the landowner.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts of the case, the plaintiff was a customer at the defendant hardware store. The plaintiff entered the garden section of the store, and approached an employee to ask where a specific part was located. The employee instructed the plaintiff to follow him, and headed off toward the aisle where the part was located. The plaintiff stepped immediately behind the employee and began to follow him. After a few steps, the plaintiff slipped on pavement that was wet due to the recent watering of the store’s plants. It was undisputed that there were “Caution: Wet Floor” signs in the area.

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