The Impact of Falling Objects: Legal Rights and Compensation

Man with both hands on head, looking straight at the camera.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS), approximately 2.8 million workers are injured on the job each year, and more than 5,000 are killed. Many of these accidents are caused by falling objects. In fact, the United States Department of Labor has labeled falling objects as one of construction’s “fatal four” types of accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured by a falling object at a work site, you should be aware of your legal rights and options. Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter is dedicated to getting accident victims the compensation they deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call 833-LEGALGA today.

Falling Object Injuries on Work Sites

Whenever work is being done on multiple levels, there is always the risk that debris will fall or objects will be dropped. Employers have a duty under OSHA regulations to maintain a safe work site and ensure that workers have the proper protective gear. For example, OSHA Standard 1910.219 provides a long list of requirements to guard against handheld machinery used in overhead work causing injury. While, OSHA Standard 1917.112 requires the use of toeboards around edges of walkways to prevent objects from rolling off and injuring people below. Workers have a right to request an OSHA safety inspection if they feel conditions are unsafe, and employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers that make such a request. Ultimately, however, for workers covered by Georgia’s Workers Compensation Law, a determination of fault is ultimately irrelevant in most cases. This is because Georgia workers automatically receive benefits when they are injured on the job, regardless of who is at fault. However, compensation is also limited.

Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law

Workers’ compensation functions by providing workers injured on the job with automatic compensation for harm and with benefits if they become disabled. Workers’ compensation insurance also provides benefits to dependents if a worker dies as a result of a job-related injury. The tradeoff, however, is that workers are prohibited from bringing lawsuits against employers (or co-workers) if they suffer harm in the course and scope of their employment. Determining whether workers’ compensation applies is often complicated. In the State of Georgia, any employer with three or more employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. When jobs utilize contractors and subcontractors, it is often unclear at first whether a particular worker will be covered by the law. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams Elleby, help worksite accident victims navigate the law so that their rights are protected.

Non-Worker Victims of Harm

Non-workers are not covered by Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law. For instance, if a pedestrian strolling past a construction site is struck by a falling object, she is free to bring a negligence claim against the party or parties responsible for dropping the object. She could also bring a premises liability claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred.

Premises Liability vs Negligence: Who is Responsible

When a non-worker is injured by a falling object, she can bring a claim against any responsible parties. Many times, the person who drops the object is not the owner of the property where the injury occurs. In this situation, an injured party could have claims against both the person who dropped the object as well as the property owner. First, the claim against the person who dropped the tool would be a simple negligence claim. In pursuing this claim, a skilled attorney would examine whether the person who dropped the tool took reasonable precautions to guard against dropping the object. The attorney could look to OSHA standards that might apply to the jobsite in question. For instance, OSHA Regulations require that construction sites employee a number of fall protection measures when erecting or working on scaffolding.  The attorney could then analyze whether the negligent party properly complied with the regulations to show that the worker did not act reasonably while completing work at the site. Examples of Overhead Work Protection Measures:
  • OSHA Standard 1926.105 requires the use of overhead safety netting when work is completed more than 25 feet above the ground.
  • OSHA Standard 1910.145 requires the use of warning signs to warn of the risk associated with falling objects on a job site.
  • OSHA Standard 1917-112(d) requires the use of toeboards, or raised edges, to prevent items from rolling off of the edge while working overhead.
Second, there could be a premises liability claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred. Premises liability claims can be brought when property owners are at fault for failing to keep dangerous conditions off their property. O.C.G.A § 51-3-1 provides that a landowner must take reasonable steps to keep its premises safe. Again, a skilled attorney could use the OSHA Regulations to show that the landowner was aware that work was taking place and failed to ensure that the proper safety protocols were met to prevent injury to people walking below.

Damages in a Personal Injury Suit

The final step in the process is determining the dollar amount of the injured person’s damages. Georgia personal injury law is intended to fully compensate victims for their harm. Compensation from a personal injury lawsuit, also called damages, is intended to pay for things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In cases where a defendant exhibited intentional or reckless conduct, punitive damages may be available. However, injury claims covered by the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law will be strictly limited to the compensation permitted under that law.  Georgia Worker’s Compensation Law provides a specific award schedule that dictates how much a worker’s injury is worth. However, when a non-worker is injured, the measure of damages is more fluid. A skilled attorney can utilize the injured party’s medical bills, along with evidence of missed time from work, and general pain and suffering to advocate for a more accurate measure of damages. The attorney is able to make specific arguments about how long it took for the injured party to recover. The length of recovery is important as the attorney can attached a dollar amount to the time spend recovering. Attorneys also rely on witness testimony and other evidence to paint a vivid picture of how the injury affected the injured party. This provides the jury with a detailed perspective of the injury and the suffering it caused.

For More Information, Contact Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter

Worksite accidents can be devastating, particularly when caused by falling objects. Victims need the support of qualified and experienced legal counsel on their side. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter work hard to get accident victims the compensation they deserve. Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter serves clients throughout the State of Georgia. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at a work site due to a falling object, the attorneys at Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter can help you understand what possible claims you may have and work to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call (833-534-2542) today.

$6,440,000 Personal Injury Verdict Awarded in Cobb County, GA

A judges wooden gavel is resting on top of the left side of a red hardcover book with the word LAW in gold writting writting with a white paper rolled into a scroll with the words Personal Injury wrtting on the scroll.

A Georgia jury in the State Court of Cobb County awarded a man post-apportionment damages of $3.45 million with an additional $1.84 million in attorney’s fees for injuries he sustained after falling into an unguarded concrete pit beside a golf course clubhouse in Hiram, Georgia.

Insurance Company Rejects Lower Settlement Offers

The verdict came after the Defendant’s insurer rejected numerous offers to settle for less than the insurance policy limits. Plaintiff’s counsel, Joel Williams of Williams Elleby Howard & Easter and Matthew Stoddard of The Stoddard Firm, said that multiple attempts to settle the case were made throughout the course of litigation, culminating with Plaintiff proposing a high-low agreement of $465,000 – $1.5 million after closing arguments (The high low agreement would have limited the Defendant’s exposure to $1.5 million [an amount within the insurance policy limits] if the verdict were for a higher amount but guaranteed the Plaintiff at least $465,000 if the verdict was for less). However, the Defendant’s insurance company declined all of Plaintiff’s offers to settle within its insured’s policy limits, forcing the case to trial and subsequent verdict.

The case was defended by Beth Bentley and Bill Casey of Swift, Currie, McGhee, & Hiers. Stoddard and Williams were complimentary of the professionalism displayed by Bentley and Casey. Williams’ stated, “Beth and Bill are excellent lawyers that did the best they could with a tough set of facts.”

Facts Leading to Fall from Unguarded Concrete Pit

The case initiated from an incident on February 6, 2021, when Plaintiff was invited to a country club in Hiram, GA to pick up his girlfriend who was the bar & grill manager at the club. The Plaintiff arrived at the bar and had some drinks while waiting for his girlfriend to finish her shift. As the bar was closing, Plaintiff’s manager/girlfriend asked him to go put some DJ equipment in his truck. The plaintiff walked outside and put the equipment in his truck. It was a cold and rainy night, so Plaintiff wanted to get back inside. He tried to re-enter the bar & grill, but the Defendant’s employees had locked all the doors and turned off all exterior lights. Plaintiff attempted to call his girlfriend to open the door.

When Plaintiff’s phone calls went unanswered, he decided to walk around the building and see if any other doors were unlocked. He made it around one side of the building when he fell nearly 12 feet from an unguarded retaining wall and into a concrete pit where he landed on his head, broke multiple bones, and sustained a brain injury. In this picture, emergency worker’s can be seen attending to the injured Plaintiff at the bottom of the dark and unguarded pit:

A white building with a deck, without any lights on, in the night.

Plaintiff’s Injuries

Plaintiff was rushed to the emergency room where he spent nearly a week in the hospital. Upon release, he began treating with an orthopedic surgeon who eventually recommended that he undergo a cervical fusion surgery. He had the procedure and recovered well. However, his life was forever changed by the seriousness of his permanent injuries. Plaintiff’s past medical bills at the time of trial were about $362,000.00.

Defendant Failed to Act on Warnings

Testimony revealed that approximately four months prior to the fall, the Defendant hired a landscaping company to remove bushes and trees that acted as a natural barrier around the edges of the concrete pit. The bushes can be seen in this photo (sorry, the picture quality is poor but it is the best picture available):

Picture of bushes and trees in front of a building.

At the time of removal, the landscape company warned Defendant that the pit was dangerous and that they should install a fence to guard the pit. There was also evidence that the unguarded pit violated municipal safety codes previously adopted by the City of Hiram. In additional to violating safety codes, the evidence showed that the Defendant had another concrete pit on the opposite side of its building that was guarded by a metal railing as shown in this photograph:

There is a railing beside a paved concrete slab in front of a white building with a deck.

Furthermore, one of Defendant’s employees testified that she observed children playing tag near the pit. Another employee testified that Defendant discussed concerns about a drunk person falling into the pit at a management meeting prior to the fall. The Defendant’s owner, testified that safety was the company’s number one priority and that the Defendant intended to place a fence along the pit due to safety concerns. Despite all this, a fence was not installed before Plaintiff’s fall because it remained on a to-do “list” while the company completed other projects during its “slow season.” Shockingly, some of those other projects included installing decorative split rail fencing around other areas of the golf course.

The Defenses

Stoddard and Williams said the Defense asserted a plethora of defenses. The defense argued that Plaintiff was a trespasser who never paid for his drinks (despite testimony from the club manager that he saw a tab with Plaintiff’s name on it); that Plaintiff was drunk at the time of the fall; that Plaintiff should have used his phone’s flashlight to see where he was going; that Plaintiff was not allowed on the part of the property where the fall occurred; that Plaintiff left a path and walked through the woods to reach the pit; and finally, that Plaintiff’s spinal injuries were degenerative and not caused by the fall.

Trial Begins

Trial began on December 18, 2023, before Judge Jane Manning in the State Court of Cobb County. Plaintiff’s counsel relied on testimony from Plaintiff, his ex-girlfriend/bar manager, the landscaper, ex-company employees, and Plaintiff’s treating physicians. Defense counsel called two of the Defendant’s employees, along with a code expert, toxicology expert, and neurologist to dispute liability and causation.

In the lead up to trial and throughout, Plaintiff continued to make offers within Defendant’s policy limits to resolve the case. However, Defendants declined all of Plaintiff’s offers, never offering more than $585,000. After a four-day trial, the jury spent about five hours deliberating before returning a verdict for $4,600,000 in compensatory damages. The jury apportioned 25 percent of the fault to Plaintiff, reducing the total compensatory award to $3,450,000. The jury also found there was bad faith in the underlying transaction and awarded $1,840,000 in attorney’s fees pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11. In awarding attorney’s fees, the jury found that the Defendant’s conduct demonstrated a conscious indifference to the consequences of its actions (i.e. failing to act on its admitted knowledge of the danger, its failure to heed warnings from its landscaping contractor, its failure to comply with code, and other things).

Stoddard and Williams agree that this is a very sad case involving serious life altering injuries and that this tragedy is made worse by the fact that the Defendant is now facing a judgment that exceeds its insurance limits due to its insurer’s refusal to accept multiple settlement offers within its insurance limits. Plaintiff’s counsel, Joel Williams, explained, “This is the perfect example of what happens when insurance companies refuse to protect their insureds. Insurance companies readily accept our premium payments but they often fall short when we need them to do what we pay them to do: Protect us, and our assets, when we face liability claims. Special interest groups love to blame lawyers for so-called “nuclear” or “excess” verdicts but the truth is that we would rarely see large jury verdicts if insurance companies would accept reasonable settlement offers and protect their insureds when they are given an opportunity to do so, as we did numerous times prior to the verdict in this case.”

Georgia Slip & Falls: What To Do If You Slip & Fall On Ice Or Snow

Woman slips and falls on an icy driveway.

According to the CDC, unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal emergency department visits in the United States. When temperatures drop, the risk of slip and fall incidents increases dramatically. Colder weather means that Georgians will encounter more icy staircases and frozen puddles on sidewalks. This increased risk poses potential legal challenges for property owners and victims alike. In this post, we will explore the laws surrounding slip and fall incidents in Georgia due to icy conditions.

Premises Liability in Georgia:

To determine who is responsible for a slip and fall on ice, we must first understand the basics of Georgia premises liability law. Georgia law holds landowners responsible for maintaining safe conditions on their premises. O.C.G.A §51-3-1 states that an owner of land who invites people onto their property must exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. This means that property owners should take reasonable actions to guard against danger on their property.

Types of Visitors:

However, the steps an owner must take depends on the status of the injured person at the time of the injury. The law places different duties on a landowner depending on the category of person who is injured. When you walk onto someone else’s property, you are either an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.

  1. An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property by the owner for both parties’ benefit. An example of an invitee is a customer entering a business to make a purchase.
  2. A licensee is a person on a property solely for her own interest. For example, Georgia law considers a social guest to be a licensee. See Stanton v. Griffin,361 Ga. App 205 (2021).
  3. Finally, a trespasser is a person who enters another’s property without permission.  Interestingly, a person can be considered a trespasser even if they enter another’s property accidentally. See Crosby v. Savannah Electric Co., 114 Ga. App. 193 (1966).

Duty to Visitors:

Georgia law provides different rules for landowners depending on the type of visitor.  A landowner owes a duty of ordinary care to an invitee. See O.C.G.A §51-3-1. This means that a landowner must take reasonable steps to make sure his property is safe for any invitee that comes onto the property.

However, a landowner owes a lesser duty to a licensee. A landowner must not injure a licensee willfully or wantonly. Stanton v. Griffin,361 Ga. App 205 (2021). In other words, the owner is only liable to a licensee if he intentionally injures the guest or acts in an extremely reckless manner.

Finally, a landowner owes no duty at all to a trespasser. See Crosby v. Savannah Electric Co., 114 Ga. App. 193 (1966). Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a trespasser to recover for an injury sustained on someone else’s property.

Comparative Negligence:

We must also consider whether the injured party contributed to her injury. Georgia recognizes the doctrine of comparative negligence. This allows a jury to consider whether the plaintiff did anything wrong to contribute to the injury. The jury can then assign a percentage of blame to either party depending on how much each party contributed to the injury. See Clark v. Rush, 312 Ga. App. 333 (2011). Therefore, if the injured party is found to be partially at fault for not taking reasonable precautions, their recovery may be diminished.

Bringing a Claim for a Slip & Fall on Ice:

Now that we understand the law, let’s discuss how it applies to a slip and fall on ice. Georgia law says that property owners must take appropriate steps to make their property safe. Negligence on the property owner may arise if they fail to:

  1. Monitor weather conditions: Property owners should stay informed about weather forecasts, especially in the winter months, and take preemptive measures to address potential ice accumulation.
  2. Remove ice promptly: If ice does accumulate, property owners are expected to promptly remove or mitigate the hazard. This may involve salting walkways, clearing snow, or posting warning signs.
  3. Warn visitors: In situations where the removal of ice is not immediately feasible, property owners must adequately warn visitors about the hazardous conditions.

Failure to take these reasonable steps could result in the property owner being held responsible for injuries that occur when someone falls. However, what is reasonable depends on the status of the person who was injured:

  1. For an invitee, the property owner could be at fault for simply failing to recognize that the ice formed and failing to take steps to remove it.
  2. However, a licenseewould not be able to recover unless she could show that the property owner intentionally put water on the sidewalk to cause the fall.
  3. Finally, a trespasser likely would not have a claim for injury no matter the actions of the property owner.

After determining whether the property owner acted reasonably under the circumstances, we must also determine whether the injured party acted reasonably. In other words, did she do anything that contributed to her injury:

  1. Did she recognize that there was ice on the sidewalk and decide to walk on it anyway?
  2. Did she see a sign warning not to enter due to ice and enter anyway?
  3. Was she distracted and not paying attention to her surroundings, which caused her to slip?

These are just a few examples of situations that could cause a jury to assign fault to the injured party and lower the amount she would recover based on Georgia’s comparative negligence rule.

Proving Liability:

To successfully pursue a slip and fall claim in Georgia, the injured party must establish the following elements:

  1. Duty of care: The property owner owed a duty of care to the visitor.
  2. Breach of duty: The property owner failed to meet the standard of care by neglecting to address the icy conditions.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the slip and fall incident and subsequent injuries.
  4. Damages: The victim suffered measurable damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

We work through the invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser analysis to establish the duty of care that the property owner owed to the injured party. This involves asking questions to determine why the injured party was on the property at the time of the fall so that we can determine which category the person falls into. Once we know whether the injured party is an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser we are able to determine the duty owed.

Subsequently, to determine whether the property owner breached her duty we examine the facts of the incident to determine whether the property owner acted with the level of care required under the duty analysis. For example, in the case of an invitee, we would try to determine how the hazard came to be on the property and whether the property owner took reasonable steps to protect against the hazard.

The next step is to determine causation. This simply means, did the hazard (the ice on the sidewalk) cause the injuries that the injured party is complaining of. Sometimes, this is very straightforward- a person slips on ice, falls, and breaks her arm. It is easy to understand that the fall caused the broken arm. However, in other situations, it is more complicated. For example, a person slips and falls on ice. Four days later, he starts having back pain. A year after that he has back surgery. In this situation, it takes months of examining medical records and talking with doctors to determine whether the fall on the ice caused the need for back surgery.

Finally, we examine the extent of the injury caused, the amount of medical bills incurred, any lost wages from missing time from work, and the overall pain and suffering to determine the total amount of damages caused by the fall. The damages calculation involves adding up all the losses the plaintiff sustained to determine the full value of the case.

Conclusion:

Navigating slip and fall incidents in Georgia resulting from icy conditions requires a careful examination of the circumstances and a thorough understanding of premises liability laws. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney can be crucial in ensuring your rights are protected and justice is served. Call Williams Elleby Howard & Easter at 833-534-2542.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for our video on this topic and many more topics.

Premises Liability: Store Safety and the Holidays

Premises Liability and Store Safety During the Holiday Season

The holidays are here, and stores are bustling with customers. During this busy time retailers must prepare their stores for a safe shopping experience and avoid exposure from premises liability claims. 

Store Safety and Premises Liability

Many hidden dangers lurk when careless store owners are more concerned with moving inventory than keeping their property safe. Examples of these premises liability dangers include wet floors, falling inventory, poor lighting, and even criminals looking to prey on innocent shoppers. The National Crime Prevention Council provides great safety tips for last minute holiday shoppers.

For premises liability claims in Georgia, business owners and occupiers owe their customers a statutory duty to keep their premises and approaches safe. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. Whether a business owner exercises ordinary care in a particular situation is usually a question that must be decided by a jury if a lawsuit is brought for personal injuries. Robinson v. Kroger Co., 268 Ga 735 (1997).

In most cases, a premises liability claim can still be brought against the property owner even when the owner hires a third party to manage the property. This is called a “non-delegable duty.” However, if the owner surrenders full control to an independent contractor the landowner no longer owes the duties required by O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. When this happens, the landowner is considered an “out of possession” landlord and the landowner will not be held liable for the third parties’ negligence.

Store Owner Responsibility

Despite these statutory duties, an owner or occupier is not an insurer of its customers safety. First Pacific Management Corporation v. O’Brien, et al., 184 Ga. App. 277 (1987). This means that the law requires the landowner to act in an ordinarily prudent manner to discover dangers and fix them. If the danger cannot be removed, a warning should be given. However, landowners are not obligated to warn against open and obvious hazards. For example, a business owner/occupier is required to warn customers when a floor is slippery from being mopped or recently waxed, but the business would not be required to warn a customer about rainwater near the store entrance during a storm. Roby v. Kroger Co., 219 Ga. App. 459 (1995).

The duty to keep a premises safe is not limited to physical defects on the property. Dangerous animals and persons can harm customers. If the conduct of an employee or third person is sufficient to pose threat of danger to customers, the business owner or occupier must act with care to intervene and prevent injury to innocent customers. A classic example of this is when a business is located in a high crime area and the business owner knows that innocent victims have been robbed in the past. A responsible business owner would hire security and install surveillance cameras to deter the criminals from preying on his customers. When the business owner does not act to deter the criminals from harming customers, the owner may be held liable for his or her negligence. Negligent Security Attorney Joel Williams has resolved several multi-million-dollar cases where innocent victims were harmed by others on a business’s property.

Customer Responsibility

Even though the owner or occupier of land must exercise ordinary care to keep his premises safe, the customer must also exercise care for his or her own safety. If the customer fails to exercise ordinary care for his own safety, his claim may be barred by the doctrine of contributory negligence. For example, if the customer sees a wet spot on the floor, then falls on it, he should not recover because he knew of the hazard and voluntarily encountered it. In Georgia, a Plaintiff cannot recover if he is 50% or more at fault for his injuries. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33(g).

Premises Liability Claims: Superior Knowledge Rule

In all Georgia premises liability cases, the injured party must prove (1) the premises owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard and (2) despite the exercise of ordinary care the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard. Georgia courts often refer to this as the “superior knowledge rule.” If the owner has superior knowledge of the hazard and the hazard causes the Plaintiff’s injuries, the business owner is liable. Custer v. Coward, 293 Ga. App. 316, 319 (2008).

If you or a loved one has been injured on a business property due to the carelessness of the business owner, contact the attorneys at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter for your free case evaluation by calling 833-LEGALGA or 833-534-2542. If your injuries are serious, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation.

The Georgia Recreational Property Act

Georgia recreational property act

Fall is the perfect season for spending time outdoors with family, especially in the beautiful state of Georgia. Camping, hiking, fishing and hunting are just a few popular outdoor activities that Georgia residents enjoy doing. However, few people actually own land that can be used for such purposes. Instead, most people use public land or use private land that has been made available to the public.

Great places to spend time outdoors in the North Georgia area include:

Great places to spend time outdoors in the South Georgia area include:

When someone in Georgia suffers an injury on land that has been made available for recreational purposes, however, the Georgia Recreational Property Act (GRPA) bars the injured person from suing the landowner in most cases.

The purpose of this law is to encourage landowners to make their land available for recreational activities. Without the GRPA, many landowners would close off their land to the public to eliminate their risk of liability, and in doing so cut millions of people off from the ability to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities.

Activities Covered by the GRPA

Only land made available for recreational purposes is covered by the law. Several notable activities, such as cycling and running, are not actually covered by the law. The law strictly defines “recreational purposes” as:

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Pleasure driving
  • Nature study
  • Water skiing
  • Winter sports
  • Viewing or enjoying historical, archeological, scenic, or scientific sites

Exceptions to the GRPA

There are two major exceptions to the GRPA that landowners and outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of. The GRPA does not apply when there has been a “willful or malicious failure” of the land owner to guard people against a dangerous condition. Therefore, landowners that make their land available to the public still have a duty to take action to prevent harm when they are aware of a dangerous condition on their property.

The GRPA also does not apply when a landowner charges a fee for the use of the land. Landowners should remember that they forfeit their immunity under the GRPA if they charge any fee in exchange for permission to use their land; but if the fee is collected for some other purpose, the GRPA will still apply. For instance, if a land owner profits by selling goods on the same property, the GRPA will still provide immunity despite the fact that they are making money as long as the purchases are not required in order to use the land.

For More Information, Contact Williams Elleby Howard & Easter

While participating in outdoor activities is a fun way to spend your time, injuries may happen. If you suffer an injury while doing a recreational activity, or if you are a landowner making your property available to others for recreational purposes, it is important to be aware of the Georgia Recreational Property Act and to protect your legal rights accordingly.

The experienced legal team at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter has deep knowledge of all aspects of Georgia tort law and represents clients in personal injury cases all throughout the state of Georgia. If you have suffered a personal injury and would like to discuss your case, contact Williams Elleby Howard & Easter today at 833-LEGALGA to schedule a free consultation.

Amusement Park Safety

amusement park safety victims
AMUSEMENT PARK SAFETY

Accidents happen every day at amusement parks around the country, including those in Georgia. Many times these accidents are caused by the avoidable negligence of the guest, the amusement park or both. While visitors should enjoy their time at the amusement park, safety should not become a second thought. Guests should prioritize their safety, and victims of amusement park negligence should be aware of their rights and seek justice.

AMUSEMENT PARK SAFETY TIPS

Know your limits. There are numerous health conditions that make riding on fast rides, such as a roller coaster, especially dangerous. Be aware of how a ride may interact with any health conditions you have. Have fun, but be cautious about putting too much stress on your body. This can have long-term effects on your health and well-being.

Respect warning signs. Assume the amusement park has foreseen a clear harm that is likely to occur if the signs are ignored. If you have children that are old enough to be left alone, make sure they understand the risks of not adhering to park rules. Reviewing park safety before you go your separate ways is key to keeping your child safe.

Never enter restricted areas. Do not assume that restricted zones are just glorified employee break areas. Odds are they aren’t places for employees to hang out, but are actually dangerous areas. Reduce your risk of injury by avoiding these areas.

NEGLIGENCE BY AMUSEMENT PARKS

Sometimes people are injured at amusement parks through absolutely no fault of their own. A recent example was seen in New Jersey, when the Six Flags log flume malfunctioned and sent two guests to the hospital. The boat tipped at an angle, causing it to not complete a cycle. Even though the injuries were minor, it was still no doubt a traumatic experience, not to mention a major inconvenience.

Many other cases end with much worse results. For instance, in July of 2021 an eleven-year-old boy, Michael Jaramillo, died while on a Raging River raft at Adventureland Theme Park. The raft malfunctioned and overturned about 20 seconds into the ride, causing the six passengers to have their heads stuck underwater until help arrived. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Whenever these types of accidents occur, victims are entitled to bring a claim against the amusement park or any other company in charge of maintaining the rides. In Georgia, these will normally be negligence or premises liability claims, which allege that the amusement park failed in its duty to keep patrons safe. If you would like more information about amusement park safety or to discuss your accident case, call Williams Elleby Howard & Easter, at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542)

Hotel Premises Liability Cases

hotel liability case

Understanding Hotel Premises Liability Cases

Georgia is a unique state in terms of its geography, history and culture. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, our state welcomed a record 111.7 million visitors in 2018. Millions of these people stayed in our hotels, and Georgia tourism has become a $68.96 billion industry.

The hotel industry profits enormously from tourism and travel in Georgia. In return, hotels that do business in Georgia have a duty to keep their hotels safe for visitors. Despite this duty, thousands of personal injuries occur each year in Georgia hotels. Some of these accidents are unavoidable, and other times hotel patrons irresponsibly cause harm to themselves in ways the hotel can’t control. But in a majority of cases, a hotel is at fault for failing to maintain the safety of the hotel premise.

Georgia Premises Liability Claims Against Hotels

Premises liability claims in Georgia derive from Title 51 Chapter 3 Section 1 of the Official Code of Georgia. This law holds that when landowners invite others onto their property, including when hotels invite people to stay in the hotel, they must “exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” This duty of ordinary care means hotel rooms and other hotel spaces must be free from conditions that could cause harm. It also means hotels must take reasonable precautions to maintain hotel security and ensure areas like workout rooms and swimming pools are safe for guests.

When is a Hotel Liable for Injuries?

There are many instances in which a hotel may be liable, and there are a few cases that have taken place in our area. If you’ve been harmed because of an unsafe condition that existed in a hotel, you may be entitled to compensation. The key to determining if a hotel is liable for the harm depends on whether the hotel failed to “exercise ordinary care.” There are several important factors that go into this determination, including:

  1. The condition that caused the harm must be dangerous or unreasonable
  2. The hotel must have failed to remedy the condition and/or failed to warn hotel patrons about the risk, even though it had the opportunity to do so
  3. The dangerous condition must have caused the harm

What is Involved in a Hotel Premises Liability Case?

These elements may seem simple, but hotel premises liability cases are often highly complex and hotly contested. Hotels will fight tooth and nail to avoid liability in court. Hotels that are a part of a larger chain may put up a particularly tough fight. Proving that a condition was dangerous and that it was the cause of the harm often requires expert witnesses and eyewitness testimony. In some cases, a medical expert may also be necessary to explain to the court exactly how the hotel defect caused the harm.

However, it is not enough to prove that a dangerous condition existed and caused the harm. A hotel must have negligently failed to fix the problem. This means it must be proved that a hotel knew or should have known about the condition and failed to fix the problem or warn patrons about it.

Georgia courts follow the “superior knowledge” doctrine, which holds that a hotel must have had superior knowledge of the dangerous condition when compared to the plaintiff. Therefore, if a plaintiff was aware of the danger but ignored the risk, the business may not be liable, even if they knew or should have known about the risk. Proving that a hotel could have or should have remedied the problem can also require large amounts of evidence, such as hotel records or surveillance footage.

If You’ve Been Injured While Staying at a Georgia Hotel, Call Williams Elleby Howard & Easter Today to Discuss Your Case

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Georgia hotel, the legal team at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter can help you get the compensation you deserve. Williams Elleby Howard & Easter offers free consultations and accepts cases on a contingency fee basis. Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, Williams Elleby Howard & Easter represents clients in all areas of Georgia. To discuss your case, call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542).

 

Responsibilities of “In Possession” and Absentee Landlords

Responsibilities of Landlord Premises Liability Personal Injury Attorney Georgia

In Georgia, landlords are required by law to meet certain safety and maintenance requirements. When a landlord negligently fails to keep his premises reasonably safe for use and someone is injured or killed while they were on or near property, they may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against the landlord. In Georgia, landlord premises liability lawsuits and the recovery of damages depends on whether a landlord is an “absentee” or “in possession” landlord.

What Is an “In Possession” Landlord?

An “in possession” landlord is either a person or entity that occupies the property or otherwise maintains substantial ownership and control over the property, even after it is rented out to a tenant. Reserving the right to periodically inspect the property does not usually constitute being “in possession” of the property.

Responsibilities of an “In Possession” Landlord

A landlord that is “in possession” of a property is usually governed by the stricter standards that apply to property owners. Georgia law states that a property owner must exercise ordinary care to keep a property safe for any “invitee” who approaches, exits, or is present on the property.

An invitee is one who is induced by express or implied invitation to come onto an owner’s property. During the term of their lease, a tenant would be an invitee of the apartment, condominium, or office building where they live or work. Under this standard, the landlord owes a duty of care to keep his premises safe. He is liable for damages when injuries are caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care.

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 owner/landlord is obligated to keep outside ramps and stairs, driveways, sidewalks, curbs, and parking lots in good repair. For any lawns, landscaping must also be kept in a safe condition. Additionally, Georgia courts have held that the duty to keep premises safe may also include the obligation to provide adequate security and required fire protection.

What Is an Absentee Landlord?

An absentee landlord is either a person or entity that owns and then rents out property. If the landlord does not occupy the property and does not exercise much day-to-day control over the property, they are considered to be “not in possession” and therefore absent. Simply put, if the landlord does not live, reside somewhere on the property, or access the property most days, they are an absentee landlord.

Responsibilities of an Absentee Landlord

Georgia statute states that when a landlord is not in possession of rental property, his or her liability is limited to those damages from “defective construction” or from failure to “keep the premises in repair.” This is a lower standard of care than would be required if they were in possession of the property.

Defective Construction

An absentee landlord may be liable for defective construction if they:

  • Did the construction work themselves;
  • Directly supervised the construction work; or
  • Had knowledge of the defective construction.

Keeping the Premises in Repair

In addition to construction defects, injuries can also occur when a landlord fails to repair a hazardous condition on the property. In order to be liable for failure to repair, Georgia courts have generally found that the landlord must have had knowledge of the hazardous condition needing repair. If the landlord knew about a potentially hazardous condition and did not take steps to repair it within a reasonable amount of time, the landlord may be found liable for resulting injuries. In some cases, landlords have also been found liable for hazards they should have known about based on performing regular inspections.

For More Information, Contact Williams Elleby Howard & Easter

If you, a friend, or a family member have been injured while on someone else’s property, contact  Williams Elleby Howard & Easter, to schedule a free consultation by calling 833-LEGALGA.

Is an Apartment Building Liable for a Broken Security Gate?

Who Is Liable for Broken Security Gate and Personal Injury?

Georgia landlords have a duty to fix broken security gates in order to keep residents safe. This is especially true when they have notice of criminal activity nearby. If there is a history of break-ins or robberies in the area, your landlord may be required to provide heightened security. When a complex falls into disrepair, your landlord may be on the hook for injuries suffered as a result of negligent security. One of the most common cases of negligent security is the failure to repair a faulty security gate. And, unfortunately, the consequences of a defective security gate can be deadly.

Liability for Negligent Security in Georgia

The owners and managers of Georgia apartment complexes owe a duty to both tenants and visitors to take steps to prevent crime on their premises. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. Any apartment complex that fails to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their tenants could be held liable for the damages that result from crime on the property. Walker v. Aderhold Properties, Inc., 303 Ga. App. 710 (2010).

Landlords and property managers are not liable for every crime that occurs at a Georgia apartment complex. There are two primary requirements that must be met for liability to apply to a landlord:

  • The criminal actions must have been foreseeable
  • The landlord must have failed to take reasonable measures to prevent crime

Foreseeable Threat

To be liable to a crime victim, a landlord or property manager must have been able to foresee the possibility of the crime in question. Drayton v. Kroger Co., 297 Ga. App. 484 (2009). The best way to prove a crime was foreseeable is to determine if similar criminal activity has occurred on or around the complex. If the apartment has had a string of break-ins, or if the surrounding neighborhood has a history of muggings, the threat may have been foreseeable to the point that your landlord should have taken steps to prevent it. In assessing the foreseeability of similar crimes, Georgia courts will “inquire into the location, nature and extent of the prior criminal activities and their likeness, proximity or other relationship to the crime in question.” Sturbridge Partners, Ltd. v. Walker, 267 Ga. 785 (1997).

Reasonable Measures

The second requirement is that the landlord failed to take “reasonable” steps to address the threat. Whether or not a step is reasonable is entirely subjective and determined on a case by case basis. Matt v. Days Inns, 212 Ga. App. 792, 794 (1994). If a negligent security lawsuit ends up going to trial, it will be up to the jury to determine if the steps taken were reasonable. But when it comes to the failure to repair a broken security gate, a strong case can be made that it is unreasonable allow a gate to remain in disrepair. After all, the gate is there for a reason.

While landlords and management companies might point to the cost of maintaining security gates, those costs are less than other security measures that may be necessary in areas where violent crime is rampant. Additionally, any savings from failing to maintain a security gate can quickly be wiped away by one incident of vandalism or property damage. Plus, it is a small price to pay for a landlord to protect their tenants.

Discuss Your Case With A Georgia Negligent Security Attorney

If you were a victim of crime at your Georgia apartment complex, you may have a claim based on your landlord’s failure to provide adequate security. A Georgia premises liability lawyer can review your case and determine if your landlord failed to take reasonable steps to protect you. To learn more, contact our firm at 833-LEGALGA for a free consultation. If you aren’t ready to speak to an attorney, you can learn more about negligent security cases on our YouTube Channel.

What Is an Attractive Nuisance?

Pool Safety and Attractive Nuisance Personal Injury Laws in Georgia

Children are naturally curious about their surroundings and can be harmed by what the law considers to be an “Attractive Nuisance.” Under Georgia law, any feature that could (a) draw the interest of a child and (b) potentially harm them is known as an attractive nuisance. The perfect example is a swimming pool. If a landowner fails to take appropriate steps to protect the public from this hazard, they could be liable for any injuries suffered by a child.

The combination of a child’s natural curiosity and the inability to identify potential hazards can be a recipe for disaster when a child is looking for a place to play and comes across a dangerous feature on another person’s property. If your child is injured due to an attractive nuisance in Georgia, you may be entitled to recover for your child’s medical bills. If your child dies after encountering an attractive nuisance, we can help you understand the challenges that are involved with bringing a wrongful death claim for the loss of a child.

Attractive Nuisance Liability in Georgia

For a landowner to be liable under the Attractive Nuisance theory, a few things must be proven. After all, not every nuisance is attractive and not every injury was feasibly preventable. A landowner is liable under the Attractive Nuisance theory if:

  • There is a dangerous condition on their property;
  • The hazardous condition was likely to attract young children;
  • A child, incapable of understanding the danger due to their age, was injured by the condition;
  • The landowner failed to take steps to guard against the injury; and
  • That preventing access to the condition or rendering it harmless was feasible without obstructing its intended purpose.

See Gregory v. Johnson, 249 Ga. 151, 154-155 (1982). In other words, a landowner owes a duty to any child that might be injured by a condition on their property that is attractive to the child. This is the case as long as it was feasible for the landowner to prevent access to the condition or render it harmless without obstructing the condition’s purpose. For example, an oil pump that might appear to a child as a teeter-totter may not be rendered entirely safe without affecting its ability to pump oil.

If all of the conditions described above are met, the landowner may be found liable for the injuries of the child. It is important to note that the duty owed to a child in these circumstances is much higher than that owed to an adult trespasser. In many cases, a landowner may be liable to a trespassing child for a dangerous condition but liability would not lie for injuries to a trespassing adult in the same situation. These nuisances can be either privately owned or public property.

Examples of Attractive Nuisances

Every premises liability case is different. However, there are a variety of examples that come up frequently in Attractive Nuisance lawsuits. Here are some of the most common examples of an attractive nuisance:

  • Railroad turntables
  • Empty swimming pools
  • Construction sites
  • Wells
  • Power lines
  • Man-made fountains
  • Abandoned cars
  • Farm equipment

These are only a few of the possible Attractive Nuisances that are common in Georgia. In many of these examples, the circumstances in each case could affect whether Attractive Nuisance liability applies. For example, farm equipment that was storable inside secure fencing might be an attractive nuisance, while equipment at a location where fencing is impossible may not qualify.

Premises Liability Attorney in Georgia

Every Attractive Nuisance case is different and will require extensive research and investigation. If your child or loved one suffered an injury on the property of another, it is possible that the property owner is liable for their damages. To discuss your options with an experienced premises liability attorney, contact us today at 833-LEGALGA.