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Georgia Court Allows Trip-and-Fall Case to Go to The Jury

It is not uncommon for people to slip or trip and fall on sidewalks, in parking lots, or in any other public space.  Unfortunately, however, in many of these cases, the incident of falling causes the person to suffer injuries.  While some of these injuries can be minor, such as bruises and scrapes, there are situations when the victim sustains serious injuries, with lifelong implications.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the fall, the property owner could be held accountable for a certain amount of damages.  Anyone who is injured on another’s property is encouraged to carefully assess the entire situation to determine whether he or she is entitled to recover for resulting pain and suffering.  A local Atlanta injury attorney who handles premises liability claims could review your case to evaluate the likelihood and extent of a recovery.

Georgia law sets forth the basic responsibilities of property owners when it comes to the safety of “invitees,” or people who are invited or permitted to be on the property.  Essentially, the property owner or occupier does not guarantee the safety of invitees, but rather he or she is expected to remove any conditions that may expose the invitee or visitor to an unreasonable risk of harm. A significant factor with respect to many of these cases is the issue of knowledge of the condition.  In a recent case, Strauss v. City of Lilburn (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the plaintiff tripped and fell as she was walking along a sidewalk outside a café toward her car in the adjacent parking lot.

The facts, as revealed in lengthy deposition testimony, are very detailed.  Essentially, the plaintiff alleged that she did not see the step down from one portion of the sidewalk to a lower portion.  An expert witness supported the plaintiff’s testimony, stating that the single-step riser was a “camouflaged hazard” because there was no delineation of the step.  According to the expert, there was no signage or other postings or handrails to notify pedestrians of the change in elevation.  The plaintiff brought this lawsuit against the City of Lilburn, alleging that as a result of the fall, she sustained significant injuries to her shoulder. The City moved for summary judgment.

The trial court granted the City’s motion, concluding that the plaintiff had “equal knowledge of the static condition” that she claimed was a hazard.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the City had “superior knowledge” of the hazard, and thus the issue should be one for the jury to decide. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the decision, concluding that there was sufficient evidence to raise a question as to whether the plaintiff exercised ordinary care for her own safety and whether she had equal or greater knowledge of the hazard created by the single-step riser.  In support of its decision, the court referred to the plaintiff’s own testimony, as well as that of the expert witness. There seemed to be no dispute that the City was aware of the single-step riser and the related conditions.

In this case, the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to survive a motion for summary judgment, at least on appeal.  This case is a nice illustration of the need to fully understand the local laws regarding premises liability cases, should you suffer an injury on another’s property.  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.

Related Blog Posts:

Georgia Court Allows Trip-and-Fall Case to Go Forward, Citing “Spoliation of Evidence”

Georgia Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Injury Claim After Fall on Icy Surface

Georgia Supreme Court Rules in Favor of State University in Premises Liability Case

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