Can I sue a hotel if I slipped and fell in the bath? It used to be that Slip and Fall in hotel bathtub cases were thrown out of court on summary judgment almost every time. In this recent Georgia premises liability case, the court considered a slip and fall and again reiterated that these cases were very weak under the old law. The good news is, any fall after the 2014 law went into effect is analyzed differently. The Statute requires hotels to have a non-slip surface and if they don’t, there is strict liability if the guest slips in the tub. There are still many ways that these cases can fall apart, but the statute has made it much more workable. Here is the analysis under the old case law and example facts.
A hotel guest sustained injuries when she slipped in the shower and fell. She was 65 years old, and she and her adult daughter had come to a hotel in Georgia that the daughter had pre-booked. On the following day, they were planning to visit family. The plaintiff had rheumatoid arthritis, and during check-in she asked for a handicap accessible room or a first floor room. There weren’t rooms like this available, so the woman and her daughter accepted adjacent rooms that were two stories up. It was late, and they couldn’t imagine trying to find a motel at that hour.
The next morning, the woman stepped into the bathtub, which seemed dry and clean. She went in and turned on the water and began lathering herself with the soap. Suddenly, her feet went out from under her, and she fell down. She crawled out of the tub and called her daughter. Her daughter came in to help her dress. They checked out of their rooms and left the hotel to go visit family.
The woman sued the owner and operator of the hotel. During her deposition, she was only able to say that she’d fallen because the tub was slippery. She didn’t know why the tub was slippery. She was standing, and suddenly her feet slipped out, but she didn’t know what had caused it. Her daughter had gone to look at the condition of the tub afterward, but she hadn’t. The daughter testified about what she’d seen and said that the tub was very slick, and it wasn’t because there was a lot of soap. She didn’t know what made the tub so slick.
In her lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed the defendants were negligent per se. She claimed they’d violated Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 511-6-2-.08 (10), promulgated by the Georgia Department of Public Health in connection with tourist accommodations. The regulation states that tubs should be provided with anti-slip measures, and they should be kept clean and in good repair. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendants hadn’t kept the property safe and that they had greater knowledge of the danger presented by the slippery tub.
Under OCGA § 51-3-1, if a property owner or occupier convinces or invites others onto the premises, it can be held liable for a failure to use ordinary care to keep the property and the approaches safe.
The owner and operator filed for summary judgment and won. They argued that the regulation wasn’t in effect at the time of the plaintiff’s hotel stay and that the plaintiff hadn’t shown her injuries were caused by their breach of duty. They also argued the plaintiff hadn’t shown the bathtub presented an unreasonable risk of injuries. The plaintiff appealed. Even if she’d made that showing, they argued, she’d failed to show they had superior knowledge of it.
The hotel defendants relied on testimony provided by the plaintiff and her daughter, as well as the hotel manager who was in charge of maintenance during her stay. The manager described the safety features of the tub and pointed out a bar built into it and a raised bumpy area on the bottom of the tub.
Before the accident, the manager said, no guest had ever reported a slip and fall in any of the bathtubs. They presented proof that they had policies and procedures in place for inspections and cleanings. The lower court had determined that the hotel defendants were right, and the cited regulation wasn’t in effect on the accident date. It also determined the plaintiff hadn’t shown the bathtub floor presented a risk of harm.
The appellate court agreed the regulations were not in effect at the time of the accident. It also reasoned that proof of a fall didn’t necessarily result in owner or operator liability. Instead, the basis of liability was superior knowledge by the owner or operator of a dangerous condition. The plaintiff presented no evidence to show the tub presented an unreasonable risk of harm. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Atlanta premises liability attorney Christopher Simon has considerable experience representing people who have been injured and families who have lost their loved ones due to negligence and other wrongful conduct, and he is prepared to assist you with a possible claim. If you believe you have a possibly meritorious claim and would like to discuss the options you may have for legal recovery, feel free to contact us to arrange a free case consultation.
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