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Georgia Court Rules in Favor of Property Owner in Premises Liability Case

caution-tripping-hazard-1439458-m (1)A premises liability action may also be known as a “slip-and-fall” or “trip-and-fall” case. Property owners have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. If a person is injured on another’s property, he or she may be able to bring a claim against the owner to recover for his or her suffering and losses. There are many elements to a premises liability action. By law, a plaintiff must plead and prove these elements in order to succeed with the claim. If you have been injured on another’s property, you are encouraged to contact a local injury attorney who is fully familiar with the laws applicable to cases brought in and around the Atlanta area.

Depending on the circumstances, an injured party may not be able to recover. In a recent case, Milledgeville Manor Partners, LLC v. Lewis (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), Lewis was a tenant of Milledgeville Manor Partners (“MMP”) when she was injured after falling in a hole on the property behind her apartment. Lewis brought this premises liability action against MMP to recover damages for her injuries. According to the facts of the case, Lewis was using a clothesline behind her apartment when she saw a small hole in the ground. Some weeks later, she realized that the hole was getting bigger and told another tenant (who was also the groundskeeper) about the hole, and pointed out where it was.

Lewis later informed another MMP employee about the hole. She did not check to see whether the hole had been repaired. Approximately two and a half weeks after informing the groundskeeper about the hole, Lewis left her apartment through the back door and walked near the clothesline and stepped into the hole. She fell and fractured her ankle. At this point, Lewis alleged that the hole was around six inches deep and obscured by grass that had grown to cover the hole.

MMP moved to dismiss Lewis’ claim, arguing that Lewis was aware of the hole, and that such knowledge was “equal to or greater than its own.” The trial court denied MMP’s motion for summary judgment. MMP appealed. The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with MMP and reversed the decision. Under applicable case law, if the evidence reveals that Lewis had equal knowledge of the danger as MMP, she may not recover on a premises liability suit. According to the record, Lewis admitted that she had actual knowledge of the danger. She saw the hole some time before the injury, realized it was getting larger with time, and even told two different people about it at the building. The court concluded that her actual knowledge of the existence of the hole in the grassy location precluded her recovery. Lewis attempted to argue that she could not see the hole because of the overgrown grass. In response to this argument, the court noted that Lewis knew about the hole and thus was required to exercise greater caution in that area of the property.

Every premises liability claim is different. The facts will certainly play a major role in whether a plaintiff will be entitled to a recovery. In any trip-and-fall case, it is extremely important to consult with a local injury lawyer who can prepare your case in a manner to achieve the best possible result under the circumstances. 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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