Articles Tagged with premises liability

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Workers’ compensation is a state-run insurance system designed to provide “no-fault” benefits to employees injured on the job. No-fault means that a worker may receive medical and income replacement benefits without having to establish the employer was negligent or somehow responsible for the injury. However, the injury must occur in the course of employment and not some “individual pursuit.”

Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation

Georgia courts have long held that an employee who is on a scheduled lunch or rest break during the workday is engaged in an “individual pursuit,” and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured during that time. Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that principle in a case addressing an employee was injured while preparing to leave work for lunch.

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There are a number of situations in which an individual or business may be held liable for a personal injury caused by someone else. Two of the more common ones involve the legal concepts of respondeat superior and premises liability. The first, respondeat superior, refers to cases in which an employee commits a tort in the course of carrying out the employer’s business. The second, premises liability, means a property owner had superior knowledge of a safety hazard that caused an injury to a person lawfully on the premises.

Manners v. 5 Star Lodge and Stables, LLC

Neither of these rules means a business is automatically liable for an accident just because it involves one of its employees or occurs on its land. Here is an example taken from a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision. In this case, a woman was accidentally shot while on the premises of a lodge. The Court of Appeals, upholding an earlier ruling by a trial judge, held that the lodge was not legally responsible for the plaintiff’s shooting or injuries.

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Your parents probably told you, “Watch where you’re going!” more than a few times when you were kid. This is not just good advice. It is also an important reminder that you are expected to be aware of your surroundings at all times. From a legal standpoint, your awareness or lack thereof may be a critical issue in a personal injury case, particularly when you have alleged negligence on the part of a property owner.

Cherokee Main Street, LLC v. Ragan

Consider this recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. This is a car accident case that originated in Cherokee County a little over four years ago. On the day in question, the plaintiff was shopping at a department store in a local shopping center. After leaving the store, she walked down a sidewalk past another store–one of the defendants in this case. The sidewalk had a ramp leading into the parking lot. But there was no formal crosswalk markings.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every day in the United States due to “unintentional drowning.” Children between the ages of 1 and 4 are especially at risk. Among this age group, drowning is the leading cause of death aside from congenital birth defects.

Frazier v. Godley Park Homeowners Association, Inc.

Most child drowning deaths occur in residential swimming pools. In some cases, the pool owner’s negligence may be the proximate cause of the child’s death. You should not assume that just because a child suffers a fatal or non-fatal drowning, the owner is automatically liable. To the contrary, under Georgia law, a swimming pool owner “is not an insurer of its safety.”

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Last year we discussed a Georgia Court of Appeals decision ordering a new trial in a premises liability case involving a well-known theme park in Cobb County. The case began when two patrons and their families were repeatedly threatened by rival gangs who were known to frequent the theme park. Even after some of the gang members threatened to shoot the patrons in the parking lot, park security failed to eject the assailants.

Shortly thereafter, a group of about 40 gang members did, in fact, approach the families in the parking lot, which was still on theme park property. Although the families escaped the approaching mob, some of the gang members proceeded to beat a bystander who happened to be seated at a bus stop near the park’s entrance.

The bystander later sued four of the men who attacked him. He also named the theme park owner as a defendant under Georgia’s premises liability law. A jury eventually found the plaintiff was entitled to $35 million in damages and apportioned 92% of the blame to the theme park.

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In a premises liability case, Georgia law holds that a plaintiff cannot recover damages if he or she had “equal or greater” knowledge of a hazard relative to the defendant. In other words, if you know there is a dangerous condition on someone else’s property and, in spite of that knowledge, you are injured, a judge may reject your personal injury lawsuit against the property owner.

Travis v. Quiktrip Corporation

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision illustrates how the question of a plaintiff’s “superior or equal” knowledge is dealt with in practice. The plaintiff was a tanker driver who delivered gasoline to a gas station owned and managed by the defendants. On the day in question, the plaintiff was making a delivery. The defendants required the plaintiff to manually measure the underground tank levels before and after each delivery. As the plaintiff later testified, he knew other drivers who had been “fired on the spot” for failing to follow this policy.

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Premises liability refers to a property owner’s responsibility for certain torts that occur within said property. A common example is a slip-and-fall accident. Let’s say you are shopping and slip on a puddle of water in the middle of the store, causing you to fall and injure yourself. The store owner may be liable if you can prove he or she was negligent in failing to notice and clean up the puddle.

How does premises liability work if the property is rented? In other words, if the store owner leases its space from another entity, such as a shopping center, is the landlord also liable for injuries to patrons? As a general rule, the answer is no. Georgia law expressly states that a landlord who has “fully parted with possession” of a property–i.e., leased it to a tenant–is not “responsible to third persons for damages” arising from the tenant’s negligence. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule. First, a landlord can be held liable for “defective construction” of the leased building itself. Second, the landlord may be liable for “damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.”

Pajaro v. South Georgia Bank

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While many premises liability claims are based on the existence of a physical hazard—i.e., a customer slips and falls on a puddle of water—there are also cases in which a property owner may be liable for the criminal acts of third parties that cause personal injury to a patron. Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the issue of how long a crime victim has to file such a claim.

Harrison v. McAfee

In June 2011, a group of masked men robbed a restaurant in Macon, Georgia. During the robbery, one of the assailants shot a restaurant patron. To date, none of the alleged criminals have been identified or arrested.

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One of the most common types of personal injury claims against the owner of a business or other premises is the “slip and fall.” Essentially, there is a hazardous condition on a given property that causes a visitor to slip, fall, and suffer some form of serious injury. Under Georgia law, the premises owner may be liable if he or she knew—or should have known—about such an “unreasonably dangerous” condition and failed to take appropriate steps to remedy it.

Alsip v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP

Proving whether an “unreasonably dangerous” condition exists often requires a careful examination of the facts surrounding a particular accident. A Georgia judge will not simply take a plaintiff at his or her word that there was a hazardous condition. To the contrary, it is often necessary for a plaintiff to employ one or more technical experts who can explain to the court why the premises owner failed to act in an appropriate manner.

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A homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers the policyholder’s liability for personal injury claims that occur on the property. For example, if someone slips and falls in your home and subsequently sues you, your homeowner’s insurance policy will pay for any damages. But not every injury that occurs on a property is necessarily covered by a homeowner’s policy, which can leave a defendant on the hook for potentially millions in damages while making it more difficult for the injury victim to receive prompt compensation.

Trustgard Insurance Co. v. Herndon

One common homeowner’s insurance policy exclusion is for criminal acts. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the applicability of such an exclusion. This case has its roots in an extramarital affair. The defendant was a married man in an “intimate relationship” with another woman, who also assisted him with maintaining his rental properties.