The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld a Jury verdict for a family for a total of $ 2,790,000 for a Slip and Fall at a Kroger Grocery Store in Georgia. The woman who fell recovered $ 2,640,000 for injuries she sustained when she fell at a Kroger Grocery Store while she was walking on her way to the check out isle and walking through the floral area, when she fell on a liquid substance on the floor.
The Husband was awarded a total of $ 150,000 for loss of consortium. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the finding that the liquid had been on the floor for a long time and, therefore, the store had constructive knowledge of the liquid prior to the slip and fall. This is similar to the case that I discussed in my last blog post about the woman who was injured in a condominium parking lot in DeKalb County and was a awarded $ 840 in damages.
As I have stated in my website, not all Premises Liability cases are slip and fall cases, but all slip and fall cases are Premises Liability Cases, and a majority of the Premises Liability cases are slip and fall cases according to the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court has clearly stated that in order for a Plaintiff to recover in a Premises Liability Case that the Plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the injury caused by a hazard 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.
The Georgia Supreme Court has further stated that when a premises liability cause of action is based on a trip and fall or slip and fall claim, that the general test comes down to two specific elements that the Plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence: 1.) The Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard; and (2) The Plaintiff, despite exercising ordinary care for his or her own personal safety, lacked knowledge of the hazard due to the defendant’s actions or to conditions under the defendant’s control.
These principles devolve from the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 51-31, which provides in pertinent part that: When 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 (emphasis mine).
There was a dissenting opinion in this case, however, by the Honorable Andrews, P. J., stating that the Defendant was entitled to a directed verdict at trial because there was no evidence to support a reasonable conclusion by the jury: (1) That a Kroger employee was in the immediate area of the “clear liquid” which caused the Plaintiff to slip and fall and could have easily seen and removed it; or (2) That the “clear liquid” had been on the floor of Kroger’s store for a long enough period of time that it should have been discovered and removed by the Defendant in the exercise of ordinary care to inspect the store premises to keep it safe.
As the majority points out, however, because there was no evidence that the Defendant had any actual knowledge of the liquid on the floor before the slip and fall, the issue presented is whether the Plaintiff produced evidence at trial sufficient for the jury to find that, prior to the slip and fall, the Defendant had constructive knowledge of the liquid on the floor, and a Plaintiff in a slip and fall case can prove that the premises owner had constructive knowledge of a hazard on the floor by showing: (1) That an employee of the Defendant was in the immediate area of the hazard and could have easily seen the hazard and removed it prior to the slip and fall; or (2) That the hazard had been on the floor for a sufficient length of time that it would have been discovered and removed if the premises owner had exercised ordinary care to inspect the premises.
The distinguishing factor here between the majority and the dissenting opinion is that the majority agreed that the Plaintiff did prove that the hazard had been on the floor long enough that if the Defendant has exercised ordinary care and inspected the premises that the hazard would have been discovered by the Defendant and, in this case, cleaned up so there was no slip and fall hazard. Whereas the dissenting Judge argued that because there was no evidence produced at trial sufficient to prove that the Defendant had superior constructive knowledge of the hazard, the trial court erred by denying Kroger’s motion for a directed verdict, and respectfully dissented to the majority.
As I have previously stated, Premises Liability cases have traditionally been difficult cases for Plaintiff’s to prevail. This and the other cases that we are recently seeing such as the Condominium Case in DeKalb County, GA may show that the tide is turning in favor of Plaintiff’s in Premises Liability Cases and we are here to assist you in any Premises Liability Case in Georgia.