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Georgia Court Looks to Terms of Franchise Agreement in Negligence Action

The 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.

KRK moved for summary judgment, arguing that due to its position as franchisor, it was not involved in the daily operations of the child-care center. Furthermore, KRK asserted that it did not own or operate nor have a financial interest in the facility. The trial court denied its motion, concluding that there were “genuine issues of fact” to be resolved. KRK appealed, arguing that it could not be vicariously liable for any alleged negligence on behalf of the franchisee. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the decision.

Georgia law sets forth certain instances when a franchisor may be liable for the obligations of the franchisee. One instance is when the franchisee is considered an “agent” of the franchisor – either an “actual” agent or an “apparent” agent. In this case, under the terms of the franchise agreement between the two companies, the court concluded that there was no evidence that the franchisee was an actual agent of KRK for purposes of liability. The court further found that the franchisee was not an apparent agent either, pointing out that the “express acknowledgement” in the enrollment agreement indicated that the child care center was a franchise and that KRK was not responsible for the actions (or inactions) of the center.

This case nicely illustrates the idea that plaintiffs who file personal injury cases based on another’s negligence may rely on any number of grounds for the action. It is important to keep in mind that many aspects of Georgia law, either established case law or state statutes, would certainly affect a plaintiff’s right to, and extent of, a recovery for injuries. If you have been hurt on another’s property, you may be entitled to bring a premises liability action. The best course of action is to contact an experienced injury attorney who can assess your case as soon as possible to preserve your rights.  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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