If You Knew About the Danger on the Property, You Cannot Sue the Owner for the Injury that Results

If you knew about the danger on a property, you can’t sue the owner just because it happened on their land. Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued a written opinion in a case requiring the court to discuss the “superior knowledge” requirement of Georgia premises liability claims. Ultimately, the court considered the plaintiff’s knowledge and his 18 years of experience as a handyman when holding that he was equally aware of the dangers involved with handling broken glass. As a result, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant hired the plaintiff to install a bathroom in the defendant’s basement. At the time, the plaintiff had approximately 18 years of experience in construction. The job required the plaintiff to remove a glass mirror from the outer wooden frame of the basement. The plaintiff and the defendant agreed that the plaintiff should use a pry bar to carefully pry the mirror away from the boards. However, as the plaintiff was prying the mirror away from the boards, the mirror splintered and shattered. This resulted in sharp shards of glass being stuck to the wooden boards.

The plaintiff was removing the boards and the attached shards when he seriously cut himself. Evidently, as the plaintiff was tossing the board into a garbage can, the glass caught his wrist, severing tendons and causing serious bleeding.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant. The defendant’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment (a motion to throw the case out) arguing that the contractor knew the glass was dangerous and did not rely on the homeowner for an assessment of the risk. The situation would be different if the homeowner told a contractor the roof was solid and then the contractor walked in and fell through the roof.  In this case, the lower court denied the
defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the defendant appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Analysis of the Plaintiff’s Claim

The court began its analysis by noting that, in order to succeed in a Georgia premises liability claim, the plaintiff must establish:  1.) the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and 2.) the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite exercising ordinary care. The court explained that, when read together, these elements form a requirement that the plaintiff prove the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard.

Here, the court held, the plaintiff and the defendant had equal knowledge of the hazard. The court pointed to the plaintiff’s experience in construction, as well as his testimony that he knew the board had glass attached to it when he began to move it, he knew the glass could cut him if it came in contact with his skin, and he knew he had to be careful when disposing of the board. Since the plaintiff was unable to establish that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and entered judgment in favor of the defendant.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident on Property?

The Law Offices of Christopher Simon has a team of dedicated Atlanta premises liability attorneys who are experienced in a wide range of injury cases, including slip-and-fall accidents and other premises liability claims. We offer free consultations to accident victims and their families so that we can help them understand the process and what we can do to help. To learn more, call (404) 259-7635 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your case with a Georgia personal injury attorney today.