Owners of property and businesses have a duty to protect their customers and tenants from unreasonable risks of a slip and fall injury. Georgia law requires that these individuals and entities take steps to learn of dangerous conditions on their property and to correct those dangers so their customers and tenants do not get hurt. When the property owner does not correct the unsafe condition and someone is injured, the injured person may have a premises liability claim or, depending upon the circumstances, a slip and fall claim. There are many physical hazards that can injure someone at a public business such as merchandise falling off a shelf (even shelves and fixtures collapsing), ice on walkways, floors and/or carpets in disrepair, infrastructure that falls and strikes an individual, overcrowding of aisles creating unsafe pathways, and water or objects on floors causing an individual to slip and fall. The possibilities are endless.
Hazardous conditions can be separated into two basic categories:
- Static conditions, such as uneven pavement, holes in the sidewalk or poorly lit stairs. *Owners/occupiers have no duty to warn of unexpected, unforeseeable or open and obvious dangers.
- Foreign substances or finishes can be any substance, such as debris, water, ice, spilled liquids and other objects on the floor, sidewalk or parking lot.
Elements of a Slip and Fall Claim in Georgia
In every case it is necessary to prove that (1) the business owner knew (or should have known) that a hazard existed, (2) the person who suffered a slip and fall injury had inferior knowledge relative to the owner/occupier of the property, (3) that the injured person was unaware of the hazard and (4) that the hazard caused an injury.
Classification of Entrants onto Property: An Important Issue in Slip and Fall Cases
The duty an owner/occupier of property owes to a person entering onto his land is determined by reference to the relationship between the owner/occupier and the entrant. In Georgia, these relationships are defined in three distinct categories:
- Invitees – Individuals who have received an express or implied invitation to come onto the premises for a business purpose, such as a customer in a store or a sales representative. A property owner or occupier owes the highest duty of care to invitees – a non-delegable duty of ordinary care to keep the premises and approaches safe from foreseeable dangers.
- Licensees – Individuals permitted to come onto the premises of the owner or occupier solely for his own interests or convenience, such as social guests, individuals who enter an establishment solely to use the restroom or door-to-door salespersons. Owners/occupiers owe a duty not to expose licensees knowingly to an unreasonable risk of harm or letting the person run upon a known hidden peril.
- Trespassers – Unauthorized entrants onto the premises of an owner or occupier, such as vagrants or individuals cutting through the owner or occupier’s property for a short cut. The owner only owes a duty to avoid wantonly and willfully harming the trespasser. There are special considerations involving child trespassers such as the doctrine of attractive nuisance.
What Does “Ordinary Care for your Own Safety” Mean in your Slip and Fall Case?
Under Georgia law, individuals must exercise ordinary care for their own safety to discover and avoid conditions that may pose the risk of injury. Should an invitee know of a hazard but take no steps to avoid it, he is voluntarily exposing himself to the risk of injury and may be deemed to have assumed the risk. The Monk Law Firm will relentlessly pursue evidence to prove that the owners of the property and business knew of the hazard and did not correct it in time to prevent a slip and fall injury. Call the Monk Law Firm for a free consultation. We are here to help.