Under Georgia law, an owner or occupier of land has a legal duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for invitees. This does not mean that the owner is insuring the safety of people invited on its property. In fact, in order to bring an action for premises liability (a.k.a. a slip-and-fall case) one must present evidence of a hazardous condition that caused the plaintiff to fall and sustain injuries. People who are injured in a fall on another’s property may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering. Each case is fact-specific and must be analyzed by an experienced injury attorney with full knowledge of the laws applicable to cases brought in and around the Atlanta area.
In a recent case, Bryan Bank & Trust v. Steele (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the plaintiff, Bonnie Steele, fell on the sidewalk outside the Bank and suffered injuries. During her deposition, Steele described seeing a metal edging around a flowerbed next to the sidewalk while walking into the Bank. On her way out, she took the same route back but suddenly fell and landed on her back. She could not say for certain what caused her to fall, stating that she believed it was the fencing (metal edging) because it appeared to be protruding out. Upon further questioning, Steele acknowledged that the fencing could have been moved as a result of the fall. In essence, plaintiff was unable to state for sure whether the fencing was on the sidewalk before or after she fell.
The Bank moved for summary judgment, but the trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals granted the Bank’s application for interlocutory review of the trial court’s decision. The Bank alleged that plaintiff provided no evidence of a hazardous condition. After reviewing the facts, the court of appeals pointed out that Steele did not know how she fell or what caused her to fall. Further, she was unable to state whether she tripped or struck her foot against some object. While plaintiff assumed that she tripped on the fence border, she also admitted that her fall might have been what caused it to move.
Here, the court noted that plaintiff’s evidence of the cause of her fall amounted to something called “admitted speculation.” The court pointed to an earlier premises liability case in which a Georgia court found that a plaintiff’s “admitted speculation” as to what caused her to trip was not sufficient to establish causation. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, concluding that causation was not established in the absence of evidence directly connecting a defect with the plaintiff’s fall.
This case illustrates the importance of understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding a premises liability claim. A plaintiff must be able to prove each element of a slip-and-fall cause of action. If you have been injured on the property of another, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced injury attorney who would be able to evaluate your claim to determine whether and to what extent you would be able to recover for your injuries.
Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured in premises liability incidents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.
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