Recent court cases in the state of Georgia have brought attention to the State’s statutes on premises liability. Whether it is a dog bite, an assault, or an accidental fall in a retail location, the courts in Georgia have demonstrated a leaning towards more liability on the part of the property owner. The courts have also shown a tendency towards higher monetary restitution to the injured parties in such cases. As a homeowner or business owner, the responsibility is upon you to take necessary measures to mitigate damages as a result of accidents or injuries that occur on your property.
The Georgia Code
Chapter 3, Article 1 of Title 51 in the Georgia Code reads as follows. “Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon their premises for any lawful purpose, they are liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by their failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.”
The operative phrase is “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” The courts have demonstrated recently that the interpretation of “ordinary care” has expanded.
One recent case involved an unprovoked attack on a visitor by the homeowner’s dog. In this case, the owner of the dog argued that he could not have known that the dog might bite the person. The court determined that there was evidence that the dog had attempted to bite other individuals leading up to the incident in question. However, law students learn on day one of law school that a client’s dog can bite one person, but if it happens again, the owner is liable. Knowing that evidence, the court found that the dog owner could have known that the dog might bite a visitor, and was therefore legally liable when the dog did bite the victim.
Another more high profile case involved the wrongful death of a visitor to the Six Flags theme park. The court ruled that the facility has the responsibility to ensure that its visitors remain safe during the act of leaving the park property. In this case, the victim had been taunted within the park, and was attacked after leaving the park while waiting for a bus at the park’s designated bus stop.
As property owners, whether residential or commercial property, it is upon us to make sure our visitors arrive, stay, and leave safely and without harm. If you are unsure what the realm of your responsibility is as it regards “ordinary care”, please call our offices for an introductory consultation.