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Premises Liability Claim is Barred by the Statute of Limitations

trolley-563132-mA fundamental aspect of any personal injury case is the state-governed time period within which a plaintiff is eligible to bring an action for damages:  the statute of limitations. Section 9-3-33 of the Georgia Code provides that actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues, with some exceptions. If an injured party fails to adhere to this requirement, he or she will be foreclosed from recovering for his or her suffering and losses. For this reason alone, it is important to contact an experienced injury attorney who is fully aware of the laws affecting cases brought in and around the Atlanta area.

In a recent premises liability case, DeMott v. Old Town Trolley Tours of Savannah, Inc. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the court granted summary judgment in favor of Old Town Trolley because the plaintiff failed to bring the action before the statute of limitations expired. Here, the plaintiff entered the Savannah Visitor Center with the intention of taking a trolley tour of the City of Savannah. She bought tickets for the tour and walked across the parking lot to an information kiosk to find out where to board the trolley. She was told to walk back to where she purchased the tickets. During the walk back across the parking lot, her husband told her to “watch the potholes.” She attempted to step around a pothole, but the asphalt gave way and she fell.

She first brought a premises liability action against the City of Savannah but later found out that Old Town Trolley owned the parking lot where she fell. Three years after the incident, DeMott amended her complaint to allege a premises liability claim against the trolley company. Old Town Trolley moved for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations had expired, and plaintiff was foreclosed from bringing the action. The plaintiff again amended her complaint, now asserting a breach of contract claim against Old Town Trolley as a “common carrier,” arguing that it was negligent or breached its contract with her. It is established law in Georgia that ticket holders have a right of action for the breach of contract of “carriage.”

Under state law, the carrier-passenger relationship begins when the carrier is receiving the passenger. The trial court found that when DeMott fell, she was not on board the trolley and was not in the process of boarding or exiting the trolley. Under these circumstances, the court found that no carrier-passenger relationship existed under Section 46-9-132 of the state code. Accordingly, the court held that the plaintiff’s breach of contract claim failed. DeMott appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed the decision, pointing out that any potential liability on behalf of Old Town Trolley does not arise out of a breach of contract action but rather a premises liability action. Here, the lower court already determined that the statute of limitations had run prior to the plaintiff’s filing of her claim. The court concluded that, since the plaintiff could not sustain a breach of contract claim under the state code, her premises liability claim was barred by the statute of limitations.

Because of the plaintiff’s failure to bring her claim for damages within the requisite time period, she has lost any right to receive compensation for her injuries. The outcome of this case strongly illustrates the need to consult with an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible after an incident occurs.  Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured in premises liability incidents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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