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.
The Facts of the Case
The court’s opinion notes that the plaintiff was injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a grocery store after he stepped in a puddle of liquid. The plaintiff presented video surveillance footage showing that a store employee walked right by the spill moments before his fall without cleaning it up. In its defense, the grocery store presented its electronic sweep-log, which detailed the times each day that the floor was cleared.
The sweep log indicated that the floor was in the process of being cleaned when the plaintiff fell. However, the employee who claimed to be performing the sweep was also seen on the surveillance footage performing other tasks including helping customers at the register. Store management had no explanation for this inconsistency, and later admitted that the sweep may not have occurred.
The Court’s Opinion
The court explained that it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the hazard that caused their injuries. If a plaintiff can present some evidence suggesting a landowner had knowledge of a hazard, the landowner can then rely on their reasonable inspection procedures to rebut the plaintiff’s argument. However, the court explained that a plaintiff does not need to show the amount of time that a hazard had been in existence if the store cannot come up with a reasonable inspection procedure that was likely to locate the hazard. Here, the court explained that the evidence indicated that the store’s inspection procedure was not followed. Thus, the court reasoned that the store could not rely on the inspection procedure to rebut the plaintiff’s claim that the store should have been aware of the hazard based on the other evidence presented.
Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident on the property of another, you may be able to recover financial compensation for your injuries through a Georgia slip-and-fall accident. Attorney Christopher M. Simon is a dedicated personal injury attorney who prides himself in advocating for the rights of Georgia accident victims. Attorney Simon represents clients in personal injury cases across Georgia out of his conveniently located Atlanta office. To learn more, call 404-259-7635 to schedule a free consultation today.