There are many different bases for a premises liability claim. Some of the more common trip-and-fall or slip-and-fall cases involve foreign substances (like water or another slippery substance) or static conditions. But a whole slew of trip/slip-and-fall cases have involved the conduct of customers, or the sudden, intervening act of a third party. Georgia law treats each type of case differently with respect to the proprietor’s knowledge of the alleged hazardous condition. For instance, courts have said that a business owner cannot be liable for “an invitee’s” injuries that were caused by a third party whose conduct was unforeseeable and occurred without warning. Each case is different, and the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident are critical to any premises liability claim. In order to know whether you are entitled to recover damages for injuries sustained in a trip or slip-and-fall case, you are encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.
In a recent case, Barbour-Amir v. Comcast of Georgia/Virginia, Inc. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), the plaintiff was at a Comcast store, waiting in line to pay her bill. She alleged that after paying the bill at the teller’s window, she turned around to leave and tripped and fell over a young child who was sitting on the floor behind her. The plaintiff brought this premises liability case against Comcast for injuries she sustained to her knees, ankle, and lower back. Comcast moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that the company had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard presented by the child sitting on the floor.
As with most personal injury cases, all parties involved in the incident provided deposition testimony. Among those deposed were the plaintiff, the customer service representative (the teller who assisted the plaintiff), and the security guard at the store who was on duty at the time of the incident. Both the plaintiff and the security guard testified that they did not see or notice any children behaving in an unruly manner or being disruptive. Furthermore, a Comcast official who conducted an internal investigation testified that there had been no prior reports of children causing customers to trip and fall, nor were there any prior complaints of children behaving in a way that would pose a risk to consumers.
The trial court granted Comcast’s motion, finding no evidence that Comcast had notice of the hazard. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that summary judgment was inappropriate because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the customer service representatives or the security guard in the store had noticed that the child was sitting behind her and should have done something to prevent the fall and injury. The court of appeals disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court pointed out that the issue here was whether the company had notice of the dangerous conduct posed by the child. This notice could be either actual or constructive. Here, the court concluded that the testimony and evidence in support of the plaintiff’s claim was too speculative to support an inference that the employees had actual or constructive knowledge of the child sitting on the floor behind the plaintiff.
The court ultimately noted that premises liability claims are not typically susceptible to a summary judgment motion. But in this case, the evidence was deemed “plain” and “palpable” to support dismissal of the case. Clearly, in order to present a successful premises liability claim, one must be fully aware of and understand the local laws governing negligence cases. Stephen M. Ozcomert has more than 20 years of experience representing clients who have been injured in premises liability incidents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.
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