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.
Georgia Slip-and-Fall Analysis
In determining whether a defendant landowner is liable for a slip-and-fall victim’s injuries, courts will typically engage in a two-part analysis. The analysis considers 1.) whether the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition; and 2.) whether, despite exercising ordinary care, the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazardous condition as a result of the defendant’s actions.
Additionally, when an accident occurs because of a static condition, such as a curb, Georgia law provides that the basis of the defendant’s liability is their superior knowledge of the condition. However, the owner does not have a duty to warn the invitee of the hazard if the invitee knew of the condition. The reason for this is that if an invitee successfully negotiated the same static condition in the past, they are presumed to have knowledge of the hazard. In other words, the law presumes that an owner or occupier can safely assume that the injury victim will recognize the associated risks of the condition.
Under Georgia law, the distraction theory applies when the plaintiff’s attention is diverted because of a natural and usual cause. To succeed on this issue, the inquiry is whether the plaintiff’s view of the hazard was obstructed right before she was going to step on it. In cases where the obstruction is obvious, a plaintiff’s failure to look where she is going will not relieve her from the responsibility of noticing the condition.
The Court’s Analysis
In this case, the plaintiff claimed that the curb was a static condition, arguing that the curb was unsafe because it was unmarked and angled. During the plaintiff’s deposition, she acknowledged previously visiting the store over twenty times, and admitted that she was familiar with both the parking lot as well as the abutments. She did not provide any evidence that anything was preventing her from observing the abutment immediately before her fall. Instead, she argued that the display rack and customers distracted her, preventing her from noticing the angled curb.
Here, the court assumed, for the sake of argument, that the curb was a dangerous condition and that the defendant had knowledge of the dangers presented by the curb. However, the court determined that the plaintiff had “equal knowledge of the hazard and failed to exercise ordinary care for her own personal safety.” The court pointed to the fact that the plaintiff visited the store 20 to 25 before the day of the accident, that she admitted to being familiar with the area, and that nothing prevented her from noticing the abutment before her fall. The court even mentioned that the weather was clear, and that there were no lighting issues that could possibly prevent the plaintiff from taking notice of the abutment.
Addressing the plaintiff’s claim that she was distracted by the display rack and other customers in the area, the court first noted that neither the rack nor the customers physically blocked her view of the abutment, and that she had successfully traversed the very same area just ren minutes before her fall. The court then pointed out that the plaintiff admitted she was looking at the display rack rather than where she was going. Thus, the court characterized the plaintiff’s distraction as a “self-induced distraction” that was not covered under the distraction theory. Thus, the court concluded that the abutment was an open and obvious hazard and that the plaintiff’s injuries were due to her own failure to exercise reasonable care.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Slip and Fall Accident?
If you or someone that you care about has suffered serious injuries as a result of a Georgia slip and fall accident, contact the dedicated injury attorneys at Christopher Simon Attorney at Law. Our team of well-respected lawyers has extensive experience providing clients with outstanding representation and are frequently able to obtain favorable results for injury victims. We understand how challenging the process of obtaining compensation after an accident can be, and go to great lengths to ensure that our clients receive the compensation they deserve. Contact our office at 404-259-7635 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you recover for your injuries.