Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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gas stationSlip 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.

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Legal News GavelGeorgia premises liability laws are meant to protect plaintiffs who are injured when they encounter a dangerous condition on another person’s property, and the property owner had knowledge of the condition but failed to warn the plaintiff. This liability is fairly circumscribed and requires certain things to have first occurred. For instance, the defendant must be aware of the dangerous condition and fail to do anything about it. Likewise, the plaintiff must be unaware of the condition or have less knowledge of it than the defendant. When the plaintiff has equal or greater knowledge than the defendant, the claim can be thrown out, as illustrated in a recent Georgia Court of Appeals case.

In this case, C.C. brought a claim against TLC Millwork after she slipped and fell on TLC’s premises. At the time, C.C. was picking up an order for her work. When she entered the location, she noted that a spigot near the door was open and that water was pooling onto the ground. Since it was only 25 degrees out, the water was quickly turning to ice.  When C.C. entered the store, she told the employee about the open spigot and the danger it created. The employee explained that it was open so that the pipes would not freeze, and there was an alternative door she could use to exit the store when she was done. The employee told C.C. not to mention the alternative door to anyone else because customers were not supposed to use it, and she might get fired.

When C.C. finished up her errands and was ready to leave, she attempted to use the alternative door, but it was locked, and she could not find a key. When she went back to find the employee who had previously helped her, the employee was tied up in a meeting. Rather than bother the employee, C.C. decided to leave through the front entrance. When she did, she slipped on the ice and fell, injuring herself. C.C. then sued TLC Millwork.

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Legal News GavelMany negligence cases turn on the question of whether a defendant, like a property owner, had sufficient actual knowledge of a hazard on his or her property, such that something should have been done to correct it. For instance, a plaintiff may allege that the defendant saw the hazard or that the hazard was reported directly to the property owner. While evidence often focuses on actual notice, it is important to remember that actual notice is not the only standard for liability. Property owners can also be held liable if they had constructive notice, or should have known that a hazard existed. A recent case in the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates this standard.

In this Georgia personal injury case, P.D. sued Rainbow Stores, USA, after she stepped on an anti-theft sensor pin while visiting a store in Georgia. The pin was on the floor while P.D. was shopping and pierced her sandal when she stepped on it, leading to nerve damage in her foot. At the time of the injury, there were multiple employees on the store floor, some of whom were attaching sensor pins to pieces of clothing. The evidence uncovered during discovery showed that neither P.D. nor the other employees noticed the sensor pin at the time that P.D. stepped on it, so they did not have actual knowledge of the hazard. Based on these facts, the trial court granted Rainbow’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. P.D. appealed.

On appeal, P.D. argued that while Rainbow did not have actual knowledge of the hazard, it did have constructive knowledge. P.D. pointed to testimony establishing that shoplifting was a very serious problem at Rainbow and that sensor pins were regularly attached to all clothing at the store. Employees were permitted to attach sensor pins in the back stockroom or on the store floor, and the company was aware that sensor pins falling on the floor of the store, where they could pose a danger to customers, was a problem. This happened due to employee errors and efforts by potential shoplifters to pry the sensors off clothes and discard them on the ground. To try to protect against this problem, Rainbow instructed its employees to sweep the floors each morning and each evening at closing.

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Legal News GavelWhen a plaintiff sues a defendant about a hazardous condition, he or she must allege that the defendant had knowledge of the condition and failed to address it or failed to warn others. Likewise, the plaintiff must also show that he or she did not have full knowledge of the danger before encountering it. While defendants may be held liable for injuries that occur on their property due to dangers of which they were aware, but a plaintiff was not, they usually cannot be held liable for injuries when a plaintiff knows of a dangerous condition and proceeds anyway. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks at when a plaintiff has such “superior or equal” knowledge to that of a defendant.

In Travis v. Quiktrip Corporation, Travis was a truck driver employed by Petroleum Transport Company. He delivered gas to gas stations around the country. In 2011, he was delivering gas to QuikTrip Corporation, at a station managed by Lloyd Thompson. While delivering the gas, he was hit by another driver and suffered serious injuries. He sued the driver, Thompson, and QuikTrip for his injuries. Travis quickly settled with the driver but maintained premises liability claims against Thompson and QuikTrip. He argued that the gasoline delivery process at QuikTrip was unnecessarily dangerous, since it often required drivers to kneel down in the middle of traffic at the station in order to measure gas tank levels. Drivers had repeatedly reported these dangers to QuikTrip, but it did nothing to address them.

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Legal News GavelIn states around the country, including Georgia, property owners owe individuals who come onto their property a basic duty to protect them from harm.  This means that property owners cannot knowingly maintain harmful or dangerous conditions on their property, such as broken railings or deep holes, that put the public at risk. But what about circumstances in which it is not clear that the property owner is aware the dangerous condition exists? In certain circumstances, the owner can be held liable for conditions he or she should have known existed, but owners will not automatically be held liable for an unknown harm just because it caused an injury.

In Youngblood v. All American Quality Foods, Inc., Ms. Youngblood was injured after she slipped and fell in a puddle of water that had formed at a grocery store. She was injured in the accident and sued All American Quality Foods, also known as Food Depot, for her injuries. She argued that Food Depot had a duty to use ordinary care in keeping its grocery stores safe for customers. In response, Food Depot moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no notice that the water puddle existed and could not reasonably have prevented it from causing Ms. Youngblood’s injuries.  The trial court agreed.  Ms. Youngblood appealed.

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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.

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slip-hazard-1429630-mThere 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.

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Legal News GavelParties to personal injury cases often attempt to settle the claims without going through a trial. Depending on the circumstances, settling claims may potentially serve to limit costs and shorten the entire process. But it is important to keep in mind that the settlement stage, like most phases of any negligence action, is highly regulated by state law, and parties must adhere to applicable provisions of the Georgia Code. Failing to comply with these requirements could result in the dismissal of any and all claims.  For a proper assessment of your case, and to ensure that applicable legal provisions are complied with, it is important that you contact an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.

Section 9-11-68 sets forth the requirements for parties to follow when preparing an offer of settlement for the other side.  First, they must identify the claim or claims that the offer is attempting to resolve.  Second, the offer must state with “particularity” any relevant conditions. This law allows a defendant to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses from the date the plaintiff rejects the offer of settlement through the entry of judgment, if the final judgment is one of no liability. According to Georgia case law, the purpose of the statute has been to encourage litigants in negligence cases to prepare and accept “good faith” settlement proposals, in order to avoid unnecessary litigation.

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caution-tripping-hazard-1439458-mIn most personal injury lawsuits, whether the claims arise from a car accident or a fall on another’s property, the likelihood of achieving a monetary recovery will depend on several items. First, the underlying facts and circumstances will play a significant role in whether the injured party is likely to recover. Secondly, the plaintiff must know and understand the particular laws and procedural requirements that must be met in order to successfully bring claims for damages. And thirdly, it is extremely important that the injured party contact an experienced attorney who has handled such cases within the local Atlanta area, who can assess the facts and prepare a strategy appropriate for the unique circumstances of your case.

In a recent slip-and-fall case, Smith v. NT Nails, LLC (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), the plaintiff brought an action against a nail salon for personal injuries she allegedly sustained after falling on a wet floor at the salon. The salon moved for summary judgment, claiming that plaintiff “knowingly and voluntarily” made the choice to walk across a floor that had been recently mopped. Plaintiff appealed the decision, arguing that summary judgment was inappropriate because, although she was aware of the hazard, she had no choice but to walk on the wet floor in order to pay and leave the salon. Essentially, plaintiff argued that the trial court should not have found that she “assumed the risk” of injury.

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Legal News GavelThe primary reason to file a personal injury claim against another person or entity is to recover damages for the victim’s pain and suffering and financial losses. Very often, the injured party has suffered serious injuries and is hoping to recover medical costs, lost wages and other items. In order to successfully bring the lawsuit, the plaintiff must properly allege and provide sufficient evidence of the defendant’s negligence. Under the Georgia Code, “ordinary negligence” is the absence of the degree of care that is exercised by an ordinarily prudent person under the same or similar circumstances. There are many ways to assert a negligence cause of action. In order to determine the best legal strategy for your accident and injury, you are encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney from the Atlanta area.

Every negligence case is based on a unique set of facts, which typically gives rise to the type of allegations you may successfully bring. In a recent personal injury case, Kids R Kids International, Inc. v. Cope et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), the plaintiff (guardian of the minor child – injured party), filed suit against two entities:  the child’s day care center as well as the franchisor, KRK. Here, the three-year-old child incurred injuries to his face when he collided with a metal gate in the school’s play area. The child’s mother brought this negligence action against both defendants, alleging that they failed to exercise reasonable care in providing services to her child, properly observe and monitor her child, properly inspect the facility, properly secure the classroom, keep the premises safe, and protect her child from an unreasonable risk of harm of which they knew or should have known.

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