Georgia Court Determines Landowner Was Not Liable for Criminal Acts of a Third Party

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case illustrating the limits of a landowner’s liability for injuries that occur on their property. The case required the court to determine under what circumstances a landowner may be liable for the criminal acts of a third party.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff entered a grocery store that was owned by the defendant. After leaving the grocery store, the plaintiff went back to her car, where she was approached by a man who shot and killed her. The plaintiff’s estate filed a premises liability lawsuit against both the defendant, who owned the store, and the operator of the store.

The defendant landowner filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that he was not responsible for the death of the plaintiff. The lower court agreed, and granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff appealed.

The Case Is Affirmed on Appeal

On appeal, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant should have taken affirmative steps to prevent the deadly assault, and that the defendant’s failure to take any action resulted in her death.

The court began its analysis by explaining that landowners must “exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe,” but are under no duty to ensure the safety of their visitors. The court explained that landowners must protect visitors from “unreasonable risks of which it has superior knowledge.” Thus, the criminal acts of third-parties are typically not held against a landowner unless the criminal acts were reasonably foreseeable.

The plaintiff presented evidence that there were frequently people loitering outside the store, and that there had been previous crimes of violence outside the store, which was located in a high-crime area. The plaintiff asserted that these facts made it foreseeable that this type of attack would occur.

The court acknowledged that the foreseeability of a criminal act may be shown by prior criminal acts of a similar nature; however, the question is whether the landowner has superior knowledge of the similar crimes. Here, the court noted that the landowner testified to believing the store was in a safe area and not having knowledge of the specific criminal acts that had occurred in the past. In response, the plaintiff attempted to rely on police reports to establish the high-crime nature of the area in which the store was located, but the court explained that the defendant’s knowledge cannot be inferred from police reports which he may have never seen.

Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?

If you have recently been injured while on another’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit, even if your injuries were inflicted by the criminal acts of a third-party. At McAleer Law, we have extensive experience litigating all types of Georgia premises liability cases, and we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Denies Defendant’s Request to Transfer Case Out of the Country in Recent Personal Injury Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, February 12, 2019.

McAleer Law Secures a $9,000,000 Settlement for a Family that Lost their Father in a Wrongful Death Case Involving a Big Rig and a Motorcycle, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, February 8, 2019.

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