Under the classic assumption of risk doctrine, a defendant is not liable for harm caused if the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risk. Georgia courts have long accepted the doctrine of assumption of risk. Assumption of risk is an affirmative defense to liability, although Georgia courts will sometimes integrate assumption of risk into a comparative fault analysis.
The Court of Appeals of Georgia has held that a defendant may successfully assert assumption of risk as a defense when defendant shows that the plaintiff:
1. Had actual knowledge of the danger in question;
2. Understood and appreciated the risks associated with such danger; and
3. Voluntarily exposed himself or herself to those risks.
Examples of Assumption of Risk Being Applied in Georgia Courts
Georgia courts have accepted assumption of risk defenses in many types of personal injury cases, including premises liability and product liability cases. The cases highlighted below show how Georgia courts apply doctrine in different types of cases.
In this case, teenager Janna Teems was injured after falling off of the top of a car driven by her friend, Matthew Bates. Teems wanted to ride on top of the car for fun as Bates drove around in a parking lot, but Bates drove faster than Teems expected (10-15 mph) and fell from the car. She was seriously injured and required weeks of hospitalization.
Teems sued Bates for negligence, but the trial court found that Teems assumed the risk of harm and ruled in favor of Bates. The appeals court affirmed this decision, finding that:
“When a person knowingly and voluntarily takes a risk of physical injury the danger of which is so obvious that the act of taking such risk in and of itself amounts to a failure to exercise ordinary care for one’s own safety, that person cannot hold another liable for injuries proximately caused by such action even though the injuries may be in part attributable to the negligence of the other person.”
This case shows that when a plaintiff assumes a major risk, the assumption of risk doctrine will apply even when the defendant’s conduct was clearly negligent.
This case shows how assumption of risk is applied in premises liability cases. In this case, 83-year-old Gwyneth Williams was killed by an alligator as she walked on a pathway along a man-made lagoon. Her family brought suit against the property owners. However, it was well-known in that area that alligators lived in the waters of the property. Moreover, the property owners warned residents in the area about the presence of the alligators. The Georgia Supreme Court found that although the property owners had a duty to keep the premise reasonably safe, that in this case Williams assumed the risk that an alligator could harm her.
This product liability case was decided in the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which is located in Atlanta. Although the case was decided in a federal court, Georgia state law was applied. The court determined that if a plaintiff voluntarily decides to use a product, despite knowing about a product’s defect and being aware of the danger the defect presents, they cannot recover in a product liability claim if the product harms them because they assumed the risk.
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The attorneys at Williams Elleby, are dedicated to helping personal injury victims with all types of personal injury claims, including auto accidents, “slip and fall,” premises liability, and product liability claims. If you would like more information or would like to discuss your case, call Williams Elleby, today to schedule a free consultation at 833-LEGALGA.