The Duties of a Georgia Landowner
Landowner duties are governed by an area of law known as premises liability. The general rule under Georgia premises liability law is that a landowner has a duty to exercise a reasonable standard of care to prevent others from being harmed on their land. But, the precise duty a landowner owes a person largely depends on whether that person is classified as an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.
Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers
The rule regarding invitees in Georgia is summed up by O.C.G.A. 51-3-1, which states: “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.” Thus, invitees are owed a high standard of care, and landowners must keep a premise reasonably safe for them and warn them of any dangers.
A landowner is liable to a licensee only for “willful or wanton injury.” According to O.C.G.A. 51-3-2, a licensee is a person who: “(1) Is neither a customer, a servant, nor a trespasser; (2) Does not stand in any contractual relation with the owner of the premises; and (3) Is permitted, expressly or impliedly, to go on the premises merely for his own interests, convenience, or gratification.” The perfect example is a social guest at your home.
A trespasser, meanwhile, is owed only the most minimal standard of care against intentional acts of harm, such as setting a trap for someone or creating an unreasonably dangerous pitfall knowing that someone will likely fall into it.
Special Statutory Protections for Certain Landowners
Georgia has enacted special protections against liability for certain landowners. Under the Georgia Recreational Property Act: “An owner of land owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for recreational purposes or to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure, or activity on the premises to persons entering for recreational purposes.”
The law further states that when a landowner invites persons onto their land for recreational purposes they do not extend any assurance that the premises are safe for any purpose, confer the legal status of an invitee or licensee to people they invite, or assume any responsibility for injury to person or property.
Liability for harm to users of land will only arise under this law if the landowner charges someone to come onto their land or willfully or maliciously fails to guard or warn against a dangerous condition.” The purpose of the law is to encourage landowners to make their land available to the public for things like hunting, fishing, and hiking.
Contact Williams Elleby, for More Information
It is important for landowners to be aware of their duties and for both landowners and others using the land to be aware of their respective rights. If you would like more information about this issue, please contact Joel William Law, LLC, at 833-LEGALGA.