Recently, in DeKalb County, Georgia a Jury awarded a woman $840K for an injury that she suffered after tripping over a parking lot hump in a condominium parking lot. The woman did not live there and was visiting when she parked in her friend’s spot, tripped over a parking lot pipe hump and injured her left elbow. She was left handed and never fully recovered.
The Plaintiff offered to settle the case before the Jury verdict for $ 350K and the Defendant countered with $100K. According the Plaintiff’s Attorney, the Plaintiff was awarded everything she asked for down to the penny and the Jury was very sympathetic to her since she never regained full use of her arm after the injury.
As I have discussed in my prior blog post about Premises Liability Law in Georgia and on my Premises Liability Page on my Website, Premises Liability Cases can happen anywhere, at any time and to anyone. It is the duty of the owner of the property to keep the premises safe for its guests and invitees.
Condominiums and Apartment Buildings alike are responsible to keep the conditions safe. This verdict does surprise me a little, however, since Georgia tends to be very conservative when it comes to Premises Liability Cases which is most likely why the Defendant offered so little to settle this case. The Plaintiff’s persistence paid off in this case and the finder of fact, the Jury, was sympathetic to this person who suffered a permanent disability as a result of a dangerous condition.
This case may have been different if the actual tenant of the building slipped and fell since it was her parking spot and the finder of fact may have found that she knew, or should have known, about this dangerous condition, and, therefore, the owner of the parking lot, or the Condominium Association, was not responsible for any injury. In this case, it was a guest of the actual tenant and the finder of fact must have found that she did not know or had no reason to know of the dangerous condition.
As I have discussed before about Tort Cases, such as Premises Liability, before the finder of fact can asses damages, negligence must be proven. In Premises Liability Cases, the burden of proof is on the Plaintiff to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant had a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached, and that the breach caused the damages to the Plaintiff. In these cases the defense can raise the issue of notice and claim that the Plaintiff knew or should have known of the hazardous condition and, if the finder of fact agrees, then the Plaintiff can be barred from any recovery.
It is for the defense of notice that I think the outcome might have been different if the injury would have happened to the actual tenant who lived in the condominium and who had this particular parking space since it could be argued that she used the space regularly and, therefore, knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. The jury may have still been sympathetic to the injuries such as they were in this case, but they may not have held the Defendant liable under the defense that the Plaintiff knew or should have known about the dangerous condition.
As with all injury cases, a different set of facts can lead to a different verdict or outcome. This is why it is important that when injured a person seek a qualified and experienced injury attorney to handle the case. There is always a risk when going to trial that you may not receive the outcome that is desired and that is why many cases settle out of court so that the Plaintiff does not bear the risk of the unknown of the result that may come from a Judge or Jury. In this case, the Plaintiff did prevail and this will set precedent for cases to come on the issue of Premises Liability.