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Georgia Court Reviews “Ordinary Care” Standard in Trip-and-Fall Case

caution-tape-1228201-300x199Under Georgia law, an owner or occupier of land owes a duty to “invitees” to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. An invitee is someone who is on the property, by express or implied invitation, for a lawful purpose. Courts have reviewed what it means to exercise “ordinary care” under the statute and have determined that the standard varies depending on the circumstances. Each case is different. One court has determined, however, that in order for one’s conduct to be deemed negligent, it must be unreasonable in light of the recognizable risk of harm. Since each case is unique, it is important to discuss the particular facts and circumstances of your claim with an experienced Atlanta injury attorney – someone who is fully familiar with the local laws applicable to the case.

In a recent premises liability case, McDonald v. West Point Food Mart, Inc. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant-convenient store for injuries she suffered after tripping over a case of beer on the floor behind her at the check out counter. According to the facts, the store was crowded when the plaintiff made a purchase at the store counter. As she turned away from the counter to exit the store, she stepped back and fell. A witness provided affidavit testimony that the customer behind the plaintiff in the line placed a case of beer on the floor while waiting in line to pay. The witness noticed the plaintiff trip over the case of beer and fall.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, concluding that the store lacked “superior knowledge” of the hazard that caused the plaintiff to trip and fall. According to the court, in order to recover damages for premises liability, the plaintiff must show that the owner or occupier should have removed the hazard in the exercise of ordinary care for the safety of invitees. In order to impose liability, the owner or occupier must have had superior knowledge of the hazard.

Therefore, in this case, the plaintiff would have had to prove:  1) that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard (which it should have prevented or removed in the exercise of ordinary care), and 2) that despite exercising ordinary care for her own safety, the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard due to the defendant’s actions or conditions under its control. Here, there was evidence raising a question of fact as to whether the plaintiff exercised ordinary care for her own safety, and there was also evidence creating a factual issue as to whether the store clerk had knowledge of the case of beer on the floor behind the plaintiff.

On appeal, the court pointed out that under the statute, a property owner or occupier is not obligated to guarantee the safety of an invitee, but instead it is expected to exercise ordinary care to protect invitees from unreasonable risks of harm, of which the owner has superior knowledge. Here, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, finding that the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that the condition that caused her injury was a foreseeable danger or hazardous condition creating an unreasonable risk of harm.

Here, the court was unwilling to find that the owner/occupier of a property breached a duty of ordinary care under the statute. It is important to understand that the outcome of each case depends on the particular facts, as well as a properly prepared legal strategy. An experienced injury attorney would be able to carefully assess your premises liability case in an effort to achieve the best possible recovery under the circumstances. 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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