Georgia Appeals Court Addresses Applicability of Recreational Property Act

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia premises liability case. The case stemmed from a tragic accident in which a woman and her sister attended a concert hosted by Mercer University at a city park. According to the court’s opinion, to enter the park, the women chose a stairway with a handrail. When they decided to leave the concert, they used the same set of stairs, but they had to go further down to get to their car. There was no handrail on this part of the stairs, and there was no other available stairway with handrails.

As the women were walking down the stairs, the plaintiff’s sister turned around to check on the plaintiff. When she turned around, she saw the plaintiff lose her balance, fall, and hit her head on the stairs. Sadly, the impact caused intense bleeding, which resulted in the plaintiff ending up in a coma. The woman was eventually taken off of life support and succumbed to her injuries.

The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the University based on the theories of negligence and premises liability. The University moved for summary judgment alleging that they were immune under the Recreational Property Act (RPA) and that the family did not establish that the University knew about the hazard. The trial court denied the University’s motion regarding its immunity claim. The University appealed the finding and argued that the RPA should bar the plaintiff’s claims.

Under Georgia’s RPA, a landowner does not have a duty to keep premises safe for entry by others for recreational purposes. Additionally, the RPA states that the landowner does not need to give any warning about dangerous conditions.

The issue in dispute here is whether the land was solely for recreation. The University contends that it should be immune because the purpose of the concert was only recreational. However, the plaintiffs allege that the University’s reason for holding the show was to support their private interests. Further, the family pointed to the presence of private food and alcohol vendors, as well as the event’s corporate sponsorship to bolster their claim that this was not a solely recreational event. However, the University claimed that they encouraged concert goers to bring their own picnics and that the purpose of the event was to revitalize the community.

The supreme court noted that it has consistently found that it is not the plaintiff’s purpose in using the venue, but rather, the defendant’s intent in offering it. Courts are instructed to look at whether furthering business interests, through food and merchandise sales are encouraged. Moreover, courts must examine all social and economic aspects of the activity. In this case, the court determined that there were questions of fact regarding the University’s purpose in holding the free concert. For this reason, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment.

Have You Been Injured at a Recreational Event in Georgia?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries at a recreational event in Georgia, you should contact the experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys at McAleer Law. This type of Georgia premises liability case is not as straight forward as some landowners would like the public to believe. Many factors play into a court’s decision before determining a defendant is entitled to immunity under the RPA. The attorneys at McAleer Law can assist you in understanding your rights and remedies in these complicated cases. Contact our Georgia personal injury law firm at 404-622-5337 to schedule a free initial consultation.