Generally, a business owner owes a nondelegable duty of care to an invitee for the purposes of a Georgia premises liability case. However, this nondelegable duty is inapplicable to an independent contractor. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, the plaintiff claimed that a company was responsible for reporting dangers in a common area where he fell in an open water meter and thereby spilled hot oil on himself. The plaintiff was told to drain hot oil from a fryer at the restaurant where he worked. There was a problem with the filtration system inside the restaurant, and so the plaintiff drained the oil into a vessel and took it out of the restaurant and into the shopping mall where the restaurant was located.
In the back lot, he stepped into an uncovered water meter opening. He spilled the oil onto himself and suffered third degree burns on his body and face. He sued the restaurant, its owners, and the property owners on a theory that the defendants had failed to appropriately inspect and maintain the premises. One of the property owners filed a third party complaint against another company claiming it was responsible for maintaining the common area of the shopping center based on a service agreement. The plaintiff amended his complaint to add a claim against the company.
The lower court granted summary judgment to the plaintiff’s employers since workers’ compensation barred his lawsuit. His claims against the property owner stayed pending. The property owner had entered into a contract with a company to sweep the grounds of the shopping mall and report problems. The agreement specified that even if the company adhered to special instructions, they wouldn’t relieve him of the sole responsibility to keep safe and efficient conditions at the property. The company agreed it was familiar with performing all the work necessary to fully adhere to the agreement and would assume responsibility and liability for all services.