Court Discusses “Distraction Doctrine” in Recent Georgia Premises Liability Case

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.

Before the plaintiff’s case reached trial, the defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s failure to notice the obvious hazard of the water or the signs that the store had placed out in warning precluded the plaintiff from recovering for his injuries. In response, the plaintiff argued that his failure to notice the water and the warning signs was excused under the distraction doctrine. The plaintiff claimed that the store employee distracted him by instructing the plaintiff to follow him as he walked through the wet area and obstructed his view of the wet floor and signage.

The court, however, rejected the plaintiff’s argument and dismissed his claim. The court explained that the distraction doctrine only applies to distractions that are caused by the defendant. Here, the court noted that the plaintiff was the one who approached the employee asking about the location of a part. Thus, it was the plaintiff who was responsible for his own distraction, and as a result, he could not benefit from the distraction doctrine.

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 the Law Offices of Christopher Simon, we represent Georgia accident victims in a wide range of claims, including Georgia slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 404-259-7635 to schedule your free consultation today.

Read More:

Food Poisoning Cases Can’t Survive Unless the Science Connects the Meal to the Particular Illness, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published September 19, 2018

Who is Going to Pay When the Are Multiple Vehicles in the Crash?, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published October 16, 2018