Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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Our firm has had a lot of success recently handling slip and fall cases with catastrophic injuries. Most of these cases revolve around a defect in a walkway or path. This defect can be either in the design of the walkway or in the failure to keep the walkway safe and secure. One way to prove a defect is to rely on ASTM standards.

ASTM International is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards. ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance health and safety, strengthen market access and trade, and build consumer confidence. In the United States, they set a standard for what is considered safe.

In regards to walkway surfaces, ASTM standards are as follows:

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Many more slip and fall cases are being litigated in Georgia state courts and a great deal of them end up in the appellate courts after appeals of summary judgment motions are either granted (i.e., the case is disposed of by the trial court on motion by the defendants and the plaintiff appeals the award of summary judgment) or denied (i.e., the defendant files a motion for summary judgment which is denied by the trial court and the defendant appeals the denial of its summary judgment motion).

As the Georgia Court of Appeals has stated in past opinions, “premises liability lies at the intersection of tort law and property law. To recover on a theory of premises liability, a plaintiff [the injured person] must show injury caused by a hazard that on an owner or occupier of land’s premises or approaches that the owner or occupier should have removed in the exercise of ordinary care for the safety of the invited public.”

We refer to these types of cases as Georgia Public Premises Liability Injuries. The law governing injuries that occur in public locations is governed by, among other statutes, O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 (“Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon [the] premises for any lawful purpose, he [or she] is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his [or her] failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.”).

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The Georgia Court of Appeals recently overturned the grant to Defendants of a Motion for Summary Judgment by a DeKalb County (Georgia) Trial Court in Duff v. Board of Regents, No. A17A0438. The three judge panel reversed DeKalb County Trial Judge Janis Gordon’s granting of Summary Judgment to the Defense when Judge Gordon concluded that rainwater, tracked onto the floor by other students causing Plaintiff to slip & fall, was not, as a matter of law, a hazardous condition.

Judge Doyle, in writing for the Court, cited the seminal premises liability case of Robinson v. Kroger, but the Plaintiffs won on the facts, which were: (1) the rainwater caused the Plaintiff to fall, but the water she slipped in was not near the door entry, but deep into the building; and (2) plaintiff had no way to know that it was even raining, because she had come from a classrooms and hallways that had no windows, so she was unable to expect rainwater on the floor in that location.

Most premises liability cases, at least in the initial stages of litigation, turn on the facts as applied to the Robinson v. Kroger factors. In Robinson, the Supreme Court held that

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An advocacy group called PEDS is taking issue with Atlanta’s crumbling sidewalks by pushing Atlanta City Council members to add sidewalk maintenance to the city’s budget. PEDS claims that Atlanta’s sidewalks are hazardous which can lead to injuries and lawsuits. Not only are the existing sidewalks in need of repair, there are many areas of Atlanta which, in my opinion, are not safe because they do not even have easily accessible sidewalks for pedestrians to safely walk without being in the way of traffic. Contrast this with the newly formed City of Brookhaven, which has been installing sidewalks along and around Buford highway and other areas of the new City. Perhaps the City of Atlanta could take notice of this and follow suit. After all, it is for everyone’s safety and benefit that a City’s pedestrians are able to walk about and be safe.

At 17th Street and Peachtree Circle, which is just around the block from PEDS Midtown office, the pedestrian advocacy group points to portions of a sidewalk that have been pushed up by the roots of trees. Other areas of the sidewalk are fractured and missing. News viewers have sent pictures of the worst sidewalks in their neighborhood in support of PEDS’ claims.

At present, the public works budget covers sidewalk repairs. An audit estimates that 25 percent of the sidewalks and curbs in Atlanta need to be repaired or replaced altogether at a cost of about $152 million. The maintenance of sidewalks is supposed to be overseen by property owners. However, as PEDS points out, this is seldom the case.

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Slip and fall cases in Georgia have been achieving some record results lately in the courtroom. A Gwinnett County, Georgia jury returned a verdict for the amount of $2.3 million to compensate the plaintiff of a slip and fall lawsuit against the Kroger Company after a judge determined that the supermarket destroyed and manipulated video evidence. The plaintiff fell onto his back when he slipped on crushed fruit that was on the floor of the deli section of the store.

The 49-year-old suffered a serious injury to his spinal cord calling for the surgical insertion of numerous rods and screws to stabilize the herniated discs in his spine. His medical bills came to approximately $135,000 and he was not able to work. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff worked as a commercial landscaper.

The attorneys of the defendant originally maintained that the store’s video footage from the time of the accident had been taped over because the videos are only kept for 17 days if there is no reason to keep them longer. They also claimed that the video cameras were not positioned to record the area where the accident happened, and they presented images taken from the camera to illustrate their claim.

However, while the manager was giving a statement at the store during a deposition, the plaintiff’s attorneys asked him to demonstrate for them the store’s video surveillance system. The manager’s demonstration proved that the camera was in fact recording the site where the defendant fell. Therefore, the camera caught everything from when the fruit fell to the floor, how long it was on the floor, and the defendant slipping and falling.
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As an Atlanta car accident lawyer, I find it surprising that so many people are unaware of the symptoms of brain injuries, considering the seriousness of these. A brain injury does not have to involve a person blacked out for hours, or bleeding from the head and nose. In fact, symptoms of brain injury can vary, depending on whether it’s a mild, moderate or severe TBI.
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I have written about similar dangerous conditions in the City of Atlanta, but it bears repeating because these instances of City neglect are too dangerous to ignore. Atlanta residents out for a stroll are in danger. So too are small children playing in the area, bicyclists, joggers and pets. If you go to the corner of North Highland Avenue and Cumberland Road, you will find the sharp jagged edge of what used to be a speed limit sign sticking up from the ground into the air. Just a few blocks away, at the corner of Stillwood and Rosedale, a City of Atlanta storm drain lies uncovered.

While the general rule is that the City is not responsible for simple negligence if someone gets hurt, there are many legal claims that allow those injured by these (and other similar dangerous conditions on City of Atlanta roads and property) to recover from the City for their injuries. The most common type of claim is premised on the legal theory of nuisance. To explain what constitutes nuisance in the simplest terms is: nuisance is negligence which is allowed to continue even after the governmental entity becomes aware of the dangerous condition. For instance, in the above example, if the City of Atlanta is not aware of the missing storm grate, they would likely not be responsible if someone get injured because of that dangerous condition. However, if someone gets injured and the City is notified of the injury and the missing storm grate but fails to take any action to correct the dangerous condition, then the second injured person can bring a cause of action based on nuisance against the City. Please be careful out there. Hopefully, you will not need the advice of an experienced Atlanta injury lawyer, but if you are injured, please take the time to hire the right lawyer.

Governments are commonly liable to injured pedestrians under the following scenarios:

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The Atlanta City council has approved a $325,000 payment to a woman who tripped and fell on a broken City of Atlanta water meter. The injured Atlanta citizen originally sought over $1 million when she hurt herself when she stepped through a broken water meter cover that was not properly maintained by the city.

While the City of Atlanta is often immune from the type of negligence claims asserted against private entities, there are many legal theories under which people hurt by the wrongful acts of the City of Atlanta can recover. One such theory is nuisance. Under a nuisance claim, the injured party claims that the City of Atlanta has maintained a dangerous condition and has not corrected the danger, even after the City knew, or should have known of the danger. Many times, the plaintiff is able to prove that the City knew about the dangerous condition by securing documents via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The documents that are produced in response to the FOIA request often have citizen complaints of the hazardous condition, incident reports that document other injuries caused by the dangerous condition, failed attempts by City workers to fix the problem, and other documents that prove notice to the City of the problem. I have found this to be especially true in cases involving City of Atlanta dangerous road conditions, dangerous sidewalk conditions (including dangerous curbs and uneven sidewalks, which are a tripping hazard) and, as in the present case, water meters which the City has notoriously failed to properly maintain. In fact, at one point, the City was installing covers on the water meters which were the wrong size. This made the situation worse, as it created an unsafe condition by hiding the meter, but if someone stepped on the cover, it collapsed into the meter (along with the pedestrians foot, etc.).

In order to maintain a nuisance claim against the City, one must first “put the City on notice.” Under Georgia law, before an action for personal injury or injury to property can be brought against the City or other municipal entity, one must first send a written ante-litem notice. This is a legal requirement that has been recently changed and has come under a bit of scrutiny as some entities that are entitled to an anti-litem notice are not obvious. In other words, the entity may technically be a governmental entity (and entitled to receive an anti-litem notice prior to being sued), but have a name that does not indicate to the public that is anything but a private, for profit, business. These situation must be properly investigated to make sure that: (1) the correct entity is identified; and (2) if the entity is considered a governmental entity, that a proper anti-litem notice is sent to preserve all claims against the target entity and all other potential defendants.
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