The basics of premises liability in Georgia – the laws that apply when you are injured on someone else’s property – are largely the same as in most jurisdictions across the United States. However, Georgia premises liability law has some interesting differences that make it possible you might not be able to recover for an injury caused by a hazard on another’s property. Even with those differences, though, in general a Georgia property owner owes a duty of care to people on the owner’s property with permission, opening the door for potential recovery for injuries suffered there.
What is Premises Liability?
Georgia law on premises liability applies where the owner or occupier of a property owes a duty of care to someone who comes on the property, breaches that duty of care, resulting in injuries, and that the injured visitor experiences damages. The owner’s invitation to enter the property can be expressed – such as where a homeowner invites friends or neighbors to come onto the property – or implied, such as where the owner operates a business that is open to the public. Any property owner or legal occupier can be liable for injuries occurring on the property because of their negligence. That includes homeowners, business property owners, business operators who are leasing their business premises, landlords, property managers, homeowners’ associations – for community-owned common spaces – or even government agencies. The common thread is they are responsible for the safe upkeep of the property and failed to keep the property safe due to their own negligence.
What is the Property Owner’s Duty of Care?
Georgia divides visitors to a property into three categories. Each of those categories of visitors – invitees, licensees, and trespassers – subjects the property holder to a different standard of care. An invitee is just that – someone who has been explicitly or implicitly invited onto the property. This would include invited visitors in a private home, shoppers at a retail business, diners at a restaurant, people who go to an amusement park, or guests at a hotel, among others. Invitees enjoy the protection of the highest standard of care in Georgia — ordinary care. That means the property holder has a duty to maintain the property in a safe fashion and can be liable for injuries caused by the property holder’s negligent failure to repair a condition or negligent failure to warn about an unsafe condition. This applies to any condition that the property holder knew about or reasonably should have known about.
A licensee is owed a lesser duty of care. This would include someone legally on the premises but not for the purposes of the implied invitation, such as someone who is in a store but is simply accompanying a friend who is there to shop. If a licensee is injured while wandering about the property, the property holder faces less stringent conditions of care. For the final kind of visitor, trespassers there without permission, the property holder holds no duty to properly maintain the property. The only duty of care owed to trespassers is to not set traps or otherwise intentionally injure the trespasser.