Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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When you stay at a hotel in Atlanta, you assume the hotel owner takes care to make sure the property is reasonably safe for visitors. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Additionally, you’re expected to stay aware of your surroundings and respond appropriately to them. If you are injured in a slip and fall accident at a hotel in Atlanta, you may be able to recover damages in an Atlanta premises liability claim, but only if the hotel had superior knowledge of the condition that caused your fall. In a recent Georgia appellate case, a plaintiff sued a hotel to obtain damages she’d suffered when she slipped and fell on a sidewalk at the defendant’s hotel.

The case arose when a grandmother and her grandchildren stayed at the defendant’s hotel. One evening they went to the hotel pool. There was nothing slippery on the sidewalk as they went from the hotel room to the pool, which was nearby. The grandmother stayed in the pool area for about an hour. There were about six other guests there. After an hour, the grandmother took the youngest child to the bathroom. It was evening, and the child was dripping water. There were lights over the sidewalk, which revealed it was slick and wet. Some enamel on the sidewalk was peeling. The grandmother told the child to slow down, realizing the area was wet. However, she slipped and fell on the sidewalk, and sustained injuries.

She sued the hotel for damages. In response to the hotel’s summary judgment motion, she filed an expert affidavit from an OSHA trainer who provided the opinion that the hotel hadn’t kept the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition and that the deteriorated paint on the sidewalk increased the risk of pedestrian slip and fall. The expert also opined that the grandmother’s fall was caused by the uneven surface of the sidewalk. The summary judgment motion was denied.

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When a property owner in Atlanta has reason to foresee there will be an injury-producing crime against certain visitors on his or her property, that property owner may be held accountable for the damages arising out of that crime in an Atlanta premises liability claim. In a recent Georgia appellate case, the court considered the sexual assault of a 12-year-old in an apartment building. Her conservator sued the apartment’s management company for its negligence, as well as negligent security. The court denied the company’s motion for summary judgment. The company appealed.

The case arose at a 9-story apartment building that provided Section 8 housing. The defendant company had taken some steps towards security. Visitors needed to sign in and there was a list of visitors banned from the building. The residents needed key fobs to come into the building, and there were security cameras as well as a security guard. The police were called, and the perpetrator pled guilty to child molestation and rape. Additionally, the plaintiff filed a premises liability action based on the theory that the defendants had negligently failed to keep the apartment safe and to adequately protect invitees, as well as negligent security under OCGA section 51-3-1.

The defendants asked for summary judgment on the grounds that the perpetrator’s intervening criminal act wasn’t foreseeable because there wasn’t proof of prior substantially similar criminal acts on or near the apartment complex. The lower court heard oral arguments on motions. It denied the motion for summary judgment on the premises liability claim. It found there was a jury question on whether the defendants should’ve foreseen the particular risk presented by the perpetrator.

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You can bring an Atlanta premises liability lawsuit against a homeowner or property owner or property manager that negligently fails to keep the property reasonably safe for a patron, customer, tenant or another invitee. In a recent slip and fall case, a defendant property management company appealed the denial of its summary judgment motion. The case arose when a woman and her daughter took a car to an area of their apartment complex. They were going to vacuum the car. The woman stepped out and went onto a landscaped area that had embedded rocks around the vacuum. When she tried to grab the vacuum, she fell and was hurt.

She sued the property management company on the grounds that she’d slipped on a foreign substance. The defense attorney asked her about what had caused her to fall and what caused her foot to slip. She testified she didn’t know. However, when her attorney asked her why she thought she fell, she answered that the rocks were very slippery. There wasn’t any water on the rocks, and she didn’t see any liquid on the ground.

The management company asked for summary judgment on the grounds that there wasn’t any evidence of a dangerous condition. The lower court denied the motion on the basis that there was proof from which the jury would be able to determine the rocks were slippery because of the water from car wash facility. The lower court asked for immediate review. The court granted interlocutory review.

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One type of Atlanta premises liability case is the negligent security lawsuit. This is a case in which you can hold a property owner responsible for a third party’s attack on you when you are an invitee, and the property owner knew about prior criminal attacks yet didn’t take safety measures to protect you from attack. In a recent Georgia case, the plaintiff sued a company after he was injured through a third-party attack on the premises of the company’s parking lot, which leased tractor trailer spaces to his employer.

The plaintiff was a truck driver who parked in one of the leased spaces after dropping off a trailer and in order to meet a different driver, a coworker, who was carrying another trailer for him to fault. The premises had a parts shop and a fenced lot with lighting, security cameras, and controlled gate access. He fell asleep in the cab of the truck but was startled to wake up to someone at the window with a tool. He mistakenly believed the person at the window was his coworker and exited the truck. Another cab was parked too close, and so when he got out of his truck, he had to step onto the step of the other cab.

The man drove away with the plaintiff hanging to the side mirror of the cab. He fell off and was run over by the cab several times, and he suffered many injuries as a result. He sued the company that owned the lot. He argued that the reason his employer used the log was that it had better security than the prior lot they used.

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It can be difficult to trace and prove liability if you are injured while using someone else’s tools on another’s property in Atlanta. Sometimes a defendant brings a motion for summary judgment and it is crucial to retain an experienced attorney soon after being injured so that all appropriate evidence can be gathered to build your case. In a recent Georgia appellate case, a plaintiff sued a contractor after falling from a ladder that was allegedly defective. The lower court denied the contractor’s motion for summary judgment, in which it claimed the plaintiff hadn’t come forward with proof to generate a jury question about whether it had actual or constructive knowledge of the ladder’s supposedly defective condition or that it owed the contractor a duty to give a safe working environment. The contractor also argued that undisputed proof showed the plaintiff hadn’t used ordinary care for his own safety.

The contractor reportedly had a single owner and no other employees. The owner would subcontract most jobs his company had been hired to perform. The case arose when a company hired the contractor to repair a damaged wall at a cell phone store. This job was contracted to another, and that subcontractor hired the plaintiff and another man to help him. At their depositions, the plaintiff and other man testified that before they went to the job at the cell phone store, they stopped at the subcontractor’s workshop to pick up materials to do the job. The subcontractor put items into the trailer. These items included the ladder; there were no other ladders inside the trailer. They all drove with the trailer for 3 hours to get to the job site.

The men started work at the Verizon store at night once the store closed. The men took the ladder into the store from the trailer. Two of the men used the ladder without a problem, but neither went higher than the second run. One of the men checked to make sure the braces on the ladder were locked. He thought the ladder looked old but not dangerous.

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A plaintiff’s own knowledge of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property in Atlanta can affect the outcome of a premises liability case. In a recent Georgia appellate case, the plaintiff appealed from a lower court’s granting of summary judgment to a store and the store’s manager. She had sued the store and the manager after tripping and falling over a raised metal part of a cart corral in the parking lot.

The case arose when the plaintiff was leaving the store and putting her groceries in the car. She pushed her cart to the corral and, while leaving it, caught her foot in the crossbar of the corral, resulting in her falling and breaking her arm. The crossbar usually lies flat on the asphalt, but it was raised on one side at about 1 1/8 inches because a delivery truck had once hit the corral.

After the fall, she was certain she’d tripped on the raised portion of the crossbar because she felt her foot catch, and when she looked back, she saw the raised portion of the crossbar.  The plaintiff sued the store and the store manager, claiming they knew about the state of the corral and negligently failed to maintain it or warn her about the hazardous condition. The defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming that the state of the corral was an open and obvious condition. They also argued that she’d successfully gone through the air before she later tripped and that she hadn’t used reasonable care.

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Whether you can hold a property owner accountable for premises liability can depend partly on your reason for being on the property, whether you’re an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. In a recent Georgia premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff was hurt when she tripped and fell down the stairs in a man’s backyard. The defendant had allowed his friend to have a birthday party at his house. The friend wanted to sit on the back porch by the pool to listen to music at the birthday party. There were brick stairs in the backyard, which had tiers. He’d purchased the property 20 years before, and the stairs had been there when he bought it.

The plaintiff was a friend of the woman having her birthday at the defendant’s house. When the plaintiff got to the house, she walked on a path to the back of the defendant’s house and arrived at some brick stairs leading to the area by the pool. She claimed that the lights were dim in that area.

As the plaintiff walked down the stairs, she looked forward, but not down. Her foot hit something and this caused her to trip. Later when she was being carried into the house after the fall, she noticed that there was an orange extension cord lying over three or four stairs where she’d tripped. However, she hadn’t seen the extension cord before falling and didn’t know who placed the cord there or how long it had been there.

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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.

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Can a repairman hired as an independent contractor hold a property owner liable for injuries sustained on the property being repaired? Can his family recover wrongful death damages when those injuries are fatal? In a recent Georgia wrongful death decision, the court considered a situation in which the decedent had been changing a light bulb on 30-foot light pole at an apartment complex when the pole broke at the base, which resulted in him falling and experiencing fatal injuries. The minor children and the administratrix of the decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit based on his fall and premises liability against the owner and manager of the apartment complex. Summary judgment was granted for the property owners. The plaintiffs appealed.

The case arose when the defendant owner bought the apartment complex and contracted with a property manager to manage it. The complex included both apartments and a recreational sports court that was lit by four light poles. The pole in question was around 30 feet tall and at the top of the four poles were crossbars that had light fixtures on the ends of them. Steel plates attached to the concrete pads were the site at which poles were bolted. On the other end of the poles they were touching soil that may have eroded away from the time the poles were installed.

The decedent had been helping out another man make repairs at the apartment complex for two years. The man the decedent was working with put together a proposal to replace four light bulbs and also included the cost of a rented forklift. The local businesses didn’t have a forklift available to rent, so when replacing the light bulbs, the man decided to connect part of one ladder to an extension ladder. Later on, the man was asked to put in a bid again, but reduced his price because the property management company didn’t want to pay for the forklift.

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Slip and fall litigation in Georgia often turns on the question of whether a dangerous condition was created by a property owner, or whether the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and made appropriate repairs or offered warnings.

In a recent Georgia appellate decision, a plaintiff slipped and fell while getting out of his car at a gas station. He sued the owner of the gas station. The lower court granted the owner’s summary judgment motion, determining there wasn’t any evidence of a dangerous condition at the gas station and deciding he wasn’t entitled to a spoliation presumption based on the owner’s inability to produce a surveillance recording of the gas station on the day of the fall.

The evidence showed it rained on the day of the fall. At the time he fell, however, the rain had stopped. The plaintiff went with his wife and pulled up next to a gas station pump. He didn’t observe any liquid on the concrete, but when he got out of his car, he slipped on what he believed was a wet, slippery foreign substance. Afterward, his clothes were wet. He couldn’t figure out the nature of the substance that made his clothes wet and didn’t look at the ground to figure out what triggered the fall. Neither did his wife.