Premises liability cases involve legal liability for unsafe conditions on someone else’s property that causes a person lawfully on site to suffer an injury.
In tort law (the civil law category under which premises liability falls), “invitees” are owed the highest duty of care (compared to licensees or trespassers). Invitees are those invited to the property as a member of the public or one who has business dealings with the landowner.
As our Atlanta premises liability attorneys can explain, invitees can include:
- Business patrons (grocery stores, hotels, amusement parks, night clubs, etc.)
- Concert attendees
- Apartment complex residents or guests
O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 outlines the duty of the landowner or occupier to invitees. Property owners who fail to exercise ordinary care in maintaining safety of the site and its approaches can be held liable to pay for resulting injuries. “Approaches” means walkways, parking lots, stairways, or other areas of ingress or egress. In some premises liability cases it can even mean adjacent areas of the property, such as a bus stop.
There are numerous types of premises liability. Some include:
- Inadequate Security
- Slip-and-Fall Accidents
- Dog Bites
- Balcony Falls
Here, our Atlanta injury attorneys explain more about these premises liability examples.
Inadequate Security – Whose Crime is it Anyway?
Inadequate security, also sometimes referred to as negligent security, occurs when a property owner fails to protect patrons, guests or residents from a violent, criminal act that was reasonably foreseeable. The civil lawsuit is separate from any criminal proceeding that may occur.
Inadequate security claims can be filed against the perpetrator (if they have sufficient assets to make a case worthwhile). However, they are more common against third-party property owners, managers, and security companies because they bear responsibility for the injury suffered by the individual.
Many people are confused at first by the concept of civil litigation for a criminal act. “Why are we suing the night club or the sports stadium for a seemingly random act of violence that occurred on their property?”
The reason is that a property owner’s actions (or inactions) can create a foreseeable zone of risk that made a crime more likely to occur.
Inadequate security can include things like:
- Not hiring enough security guards.
- Poor lighting.
- Failure to install working locks on hotel or resident doors.
- Not having a working security gate.
- Not taking reasonable action in response to customer or resident complaints of potential danger.
- Broken windows or other means of ingress/egress to private areas.
- Failure to ensure security that is hired is properly vetted and trained.
Georgia slip-and-fall accidents can be caused by many different hazardous conditions, such as uneven flooring, broken handrails, and poor lighting. If property owners knew or should have known about the danger and failed to take action or warn invitees about the risk, that’s considered negligence under Georgia premises liability law.
Establishing proof of liability be complicated. Every case is different, but generally one must prove:
- Plaintiff was legally on site;
- Property owner owed a duty of care to act reasonably in conducting regular inspections of the property to keep it safe for invitees;
- The property owner had actual or constructive knowledge about the hazard;
- The hazard was not open and obvious to the plaintiff.
- Property owner’s failure to correct the unsafe condition or warn plaintiff directly resulted in the injury.
Premises liability examples for Georgia slip-and-fall injuries have been filed against:
- Grocery stores;
- Amusement parks;
- Public rest areas;
- Swimming pools;
Damage awards in these and other cases can be reduced by O.C.G.A. 51-12-33, Georgia’s modified comparative fault law. If you are more than 50 percent responsible for the slip-and-fall, you cannot collect any damages. If you share some degree of the blame less than 50 percent, you can still collect, but your damages will be proportionately reduced.
Another premises liability case example is a dog bite.
Every year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs. These can be incredibly painful, and treatment can be expensive. The Insurance Information Institute reports liability claims related to dog bites and dog-related injuries cost homeowner insurers nearly $800 million in 2019. The average cost per claim was $44,700.
O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, the Georgia dog bite law, requires claimants to prove:
- The dog is dangerous or vicious.
- The owner careless managed the dog, resulting in the victim’s injury.
- The injured person did not provoke the dog.
These types of premises liability claims can cover not just the actual bites, but other injuries sustained during the attack, such a head injury suffered during the fall.
Building owners and landlords have an obligation to make sure balconies, railings, and porches are safe for use by residents, guests, and patrons. If balconies or railings are poorly constructed or in disrepair, that can create an unsafe condition. This tends to be more common in older apartment buildings, bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Property owners can be held liable for personal injury or wrongful death under Georgia premises liability law. It should be noted that property owners and landlords are not considered insurers of their tenants’ or guests’ safety. They won’t automatically be held liable for balcony falls due to collapses or breaks. This was the case in Aldreg v. Byrd et al., where the Georgia Court of Appeals noted the mere fact of a dangerous condition isn’t enough for a property owner to be liable; there must be actual or constructive knowledge.
Actual or constructive knowledge means the property owner knew or should have known there was a problem that could have caused someone to get hurt and failed to take the necessary steps to fix it.
Balcony collapses can be caused by posts or railings that are loose, wobbly, or detached or rotted. It may also result from sagging supports, loosened or bowed flooring, and weak joints causing part of the structure to pull away from the rest.
One recent premises liability case example of a Georgia balcony fall was the deck collapse at a Savannah bar on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018. The deck collapsed 12 feet onto a seating area below. More than half a dozen plaintiffs alleged the deck was not properly fastened to the walls that supported it, and that the bar failed to conduct regular inspections.
If you have questions about a Georgia premises liability case, our Atlanta injury lawyers are available to help.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta sexual assault victim attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.