The area of law known as “premises liability” involves situations where someone has been injured or killed while they were on or near property owned or controlled by another person or business. In Georgia and most other states, premises liability lawsuits can be brought against a homeowner, landlord, retailer, business franchise, property manager or government entity which negligently failed to keep its premises reasonably safe for use by a tenant, customer, patron or other invitee.Georgia Premises Liability Law
Many things can make a home, business establishment or parcel of land potentially unsafe for persons who visit such premises. Dangerous conditions can arise because of poor maintenance or disrepair, building code violations, slippery floors due to uncleaned spills, cracked or uneven sidewalks, unmarked steps, broken stairs or handrails, falling merchandise, contaminated pool water, mis-leveled elevators, unsafe escalators, malfunctioning smoke alarms, deficient fire safety, inadequate security, or unmarked hazardous areas. Under Georgia premises liability law, accident victims can hold the owner or occupier of property liable for negligently causing or negligently failing to repair, correct or warn about these and other unsafe conditions which lead to personal injury or wrongful death. Dog bite victims can also pursue premises liability claims against the dog owner for negligently failing to leash, confine or control their animal.Atlanta Trial Lawyers Experienced in Pursuing Premises Liability Lawsuits Throughout Georgia
Premises liability is a focus area for Ragland Law Firm, LLC and its Atlanta-based attorneys have represented many accident victims who were injured because of unsafe conditions in or around a residential home, apartment complex, hotel, restaurant, theatre, sports stadium, airport, supermarket, shopping mall, hospital, office building and other commercial locations. They are experienced and able to handle many different types of premises liability cases including ones involving a slip and fall, dog bite, deck collapse, escalator entrapment, fatal fire, recreational water illness, swimming pool drowning, or criminal assault due to inadequate security. The Atlanta trial lawyers at Ragland Law Firm, LLC are able to pursue these and other types of premises liability cases in all counties of metro Atlanta and in other parts of Georgia including Douglasville, Carrollton, Canton, Rome, Gainesville, Athens, Stockbridge, Peachtree City, Griffin, Newnan, Columbus, and Macon, Georgia.Georgia Law and the Duty to Make Premises Safe for Invitees
Georgia law requires that homeowners and commercial entities exercise reasonable care to keep their property reasonably safe for any “invitee” while they are approaching, exiting or present on the premises. This duty to keep premises safe for invitees is codified in a Georgia statute, O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1, which states as follows:
“Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.”
It is important to emphasize that this statutory obligation extends only to persons deemed to be invitees. A lesser duty is owed to persons whose status is that of a “licensee” or “trespasser.” For purposes of a premises liability claim, the legal definition of “invitee” includes anyone who lawfully uses or comes on the premises at the express or implied invitation of the person or entity which owns and/or occupies the property or business. To illustrate, during the term of their lease, a tenant would be an invitee of the apartment, condominium or office building where they live or work. Any patron of a retail store, gas station, bank, restaurant or theatre would be an invitee of these businesses. Ticket holders at a concert or sporting event would be invitees of the auditorium or stadium. Patients are considered invitees of the hospitals, clinics or nursing homes where they are admitted or seek medical care. Students are the invitees of the schools and universities they attend. And, passengers are invitees of the airline, subway or bus service they are using, as well as the airport or MARTA station from which they depart or arrive. As these examples show, an invitee has two characteristics. One, he or she lawfully enters or attempts to enter a commercial location with express or implied permission and two, there is some element of mutual gain or benefit between the invitee and owner / occupier of the property.
The duty to keep premises safe is not limited to just the construction and maintenance of buildings or other physical structures located on the property. The duty of reasonable care also includes all “approaches” to the premises. Thus, an owner/occupier is obligated to keep outside ramps and stairs, driveways, sidewalks, curbing and parking lots in good repair and reasonably safe. Likewise, any lawns, landscaping or undeveloped areas of the property must also be kept in a safe condition. In addition, Georgia courts have repeatedly held that the duty to make a premises safe may also include the obligation to provide adequate security and required fire protection. In certain circumstances, invitees may be able to hold the owner / occupier liable when they are the victim of criminal acts due to inadequate security, or they are the victim of fire due to inadequate fire safety.“Premises Liability” Encompasses Many Different Types of Cases
There are many ways in which a premises can be hazardous and result in someone’s personal injury or wrongful death. Some of the most common types of premises liability cases include the following:
- Slip / Trip and Fall – involves injuries which occur when someone falls because a floor, sidewalk, ramp, stair or other surface is broken, cracked, uneven or slippery; a leak is not repaired; unsafe debris is not removed; a spill is not cleaned in a timely matter; temporary warning signs are not used; carpeting becomes loose or wrinkled; and/or curbing or steps are not adequately marked.
- Vicious Dog Bite – involves injuries which occur when a dog or other animal chases, attacks, bites or mauls someone because the owner negligently failed to control the animal or give warning of its propensity to bite or chase.
- Escalator Accident – involves claims that an escalator passenger suffered a trip and fall or entrapment related injuries because improper installation, defective equipment, poor maintenance and/or negligent inspection led to incidents of excessive speed, sudden stop or acceleration, malfunctioning emergency controls, dangerous protruding metal parts, unsafe gaps between steps, and/or shoe entrapment or other articles of clothing being caught in/between moving parts of the escalator.
- Elevator Accident – involves claims that someone was hurt or killed because an elevator collapsed or suddenly stopped after an abrupt plummet, an elevator door opened but there was no elevator resulting in a fall down the shaft, a mis-leveled elevator created a tripping hazard by failing to stop even with the outside floor, and/or malfunctioning elevator doors struck or entrapped passengers as they attempted to enter or exit.
- Inadequate Fire Safety – involves claims by or on behalf of fire victims who died or suffered burn injuries because building code violations, overcrowding, absent or defective smoke detectors, malfunctioning fire alarms, deficient sprinkler systems, inadequate fire protection equipment, inaccessible fire exits, or other fire hazards caused the start or unnecessary spread of a fire and/or the failure to protect building occupants in the event of fire.
- Falling Merchandise – usually involves head injuries due to merchandise which falls on a customer while shopping in retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco or other locations where items are stacked or stored on shelves high above ground level.
- Deck / Balcony Collapse – involves defective construction, disrepair, poor maintenance, inadequate inspection or negligent overloading which leads to the failure of a railing thereby allowing someone to fall from a deck or balcony, or which leads to the collapse or partial collapse of a deck or balcony attached to or inside of a house, apartment, lodge, theatre, auditorium, convention center or other building.
- Inadequate Security – involves claims by or on behalf of a crime victim who was assaulted, raped, abducted or killed because the owner or operator of an apartment, hotel, shopping mall, hospital, concert arena or similar location negligently failed to provide adequate security.
- Overzealous Security – involves claims of injury, wrongful death, false imprisonment or malicious prosecution which occur because an aggressive or untrained security guard, bouncer or loss prevention employee was negligent or overzealous, used excessive or unreasonable force, and/or falsely accused someone of shoplifting or other crime they did not commit.
- Recreational Water Illness – involves claims by someone who suffers an infectious waterborne illness after using or attending a residential or commercial swimming pool, hot tub, water amusement park, interactive fountain or other acquatic recreation venue that had pool water contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses or parasites (e.g., Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Norovirus, E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella) because of negligent sanitation practices, tolerance of unsafe swimmer hygiene, inadequate water disinfection, and/or poorly maintained filtration systems.
- Swimming Pool Accident – involves drowning, near drowning and submersion injuries because of negligent child supervision, untrained or inattentive lifeguards, inadequate fences or barriers to prevent pool access by children, pool drain entrapment, inadequate markings or signage, or the failure to have or follow appropriate drowning prevention protocols.
- Negligent Supervision of Children – involves infants and minors who sustain bodily injuries or become the victim of an assault, molestation or abduction because an individual (e.g., babysitter, teacher, minister, coach, chaperone) or business entity (e.g., daycare center, school, dance studio, YMCA, summer camp) negligently fails to adequately supervise or protect a child for whom they have assumed temporary responsibility.
- Hot Beverage Safety – involves claims by a burn victim who suffered severe scalding injuries after hot water, tea, coffee, or other hot beverage was spilled because of another person’s negligence or because the hot liquid was not properly packaged.
- Peephole Voyeurism – involves claims of invasion of privacy against companies which own or operate hotels, retail stores and fitness centers when peepholes or hidden cameras are used to conduct video voyeurism or other surveillance of patrons while they were using a hotel room, changing area, restroom, locker facilities or other areas where someone would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
We have the experience and expertise to handle any type of premises liability case in Atlanta and all parts of Georgia. Contact us if you or a member of your family has suffered a slip and fall, been attacked or bitten by a vicious dog, injured by a malfunctioning elevator or escalator, hit by falling retail merchandise, or been the victim of any type of accident while patronizing a business. Because we offer contingent fee arrangements, there is no charge for consulting with a personal injury attorney about your premises liability case. Ragland Law Firm, LLC is located in Dunwoody, Georgia near Perimeter Mall so our office is especially convenient for persons residing in Sandy Springs, Roswell, Cumming, Smyrna, Duluth, Johns Creek, Tucker and Decatur, Georgia.