Land Owners Have Reasonable Time to Discover and Remove Hazards in Slip and Falls

I keep reading slip and fall cases to see if any new decisions will help our clients and time and again, I come away shaking my head at how stupid some lawyers are in Georgia. The basis of all slip and falls is proving that the store or landowner knew or should have know of the thing that caused you to fall. If it had only been there for a short while, you HAVE NO CASE! It’s just not fair to make property owners automatically responsible for everything.

In a recent Georgia premises liability case before a Georgia appeals court, the plaintiff filed a premises liability claim after she fell at a medical office. Evidently, she was walking next to the lobby desk inside the medical office as she felt something grab her pant leg, causing her to fall. After her fall, the plaintiff saw that a wheelchair was sitting next to the lobby desk.

A desk attendant who helped her up testified that she also saw the wheelchair there when the plaintiff fell, but that it had not been there a few moments earlier when she had walked away from the desk. The medical office argued that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that the medical office had superior knowledge of that hazard.

Actual and Constructive Knowledge

Under OCGA § 51-3-1, a landowner who invites others onto the property for a lawful purpose is liable for injuries caused by the owner’s “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In a slip-and-fall case, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite having exercised ordinary care because of the actions or conditions within the owner’s control.

Actual knowledge refers to the defendant’s true knowledge of a hazard. Constructive knowledge refers to a defendant’s imputed knowledge of a hazard. A plaintiff can show a property owner or occupier had constructive knowledge of a hazard if the defendant could have easily been made aware of the hazard or the hazard was there long enough that the defendant should have discovered it through ordinary diligence. For example, if a store owner does not have reasonable inspection procedures in place, or failed to follow reasonable inspection procedures, a plaintiff may be able to show the owner had constructive knowledge of a hazard.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the hazard at issue was the wheelchair. The court explained that the plaintiff did not present any evidence that the medical office had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. The plaintiff said she did not initially see the wheelchair next to the desk, and the desk attendant said the wheelchair was not there moments before the plaintiff fell. The key piece of evidence was the surveillance video that backed up the employee. Surveillance video also showed someone returning an empty wheelchair to that area just around the time that the plaintiff fell. Based on the evidence presented, the court held that the plaintiff failed to show that the medical office had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and the court dismissed the case. I wonder what they would have done if there were no video and it was just the employee swearing it had not been there moments before?

Contact an Atlanta Slip and Fall Attorney

If you have been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident, or other premises liability accident, contact a Georgia personal injury attorney for assistance. Attorney Christopher Simon has extensive experience in personal injury litigation and is ready to offer you zealous representation. If you want to get legal advice from an experienced personal injury law firm where you will be treated with respect, contact the Christopher Simon law firm. It is our job to solve your problem and educate you about the insurance claims and litigation process. To obtain a free case consultation, call us at 404-259-7635.

Read More:

Court Discusses “Distraction Doctrine” in Recent Georgia Premises Liability Case, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published December 26, 2018

Who is Going to Pay When the Are Multiple Vehicles in the Crash?, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published October 16, 2018