Georgia Court Discusses Homeowner’s Potential Liability in Recent Slip-and-Fall Case

In May 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia slip-and-fall case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim against a homeowner could proceed to trial based on circumstantial evidence of the homeowner’s negligence. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the defendant homeowner’s testimony directly contradicted the inferences the plaintiff asked the court to make, the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The court explained the facts as follows: the plaintiff was attending a friend’s birthday when she slipped and fell on an extension cord. Although the party was at the defendant’s home, the defendant was not present at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. Evidently, the defendant had allowed a friend to use his property to host the party, and the defendant was not involved in the planning or execution of the event.

The plaintiff based her case on a claim that the defendant was negligent in the upkeep of his home. Specifically, by allowing an extension cord to run down a set of outdoor steps, creating a hazard to guests. The defendant claimed that he did not place the cord along the steps and had no knowledge of who did. He admitted that he owned similar extension cords and that he was doing yard work earlier that day, but explained that the tools he was using in the yard were all gas-powered and none used an extension cord.

The court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant knew or should have known about the cord. The court explained that it is the plaintiff’s burden to present evidence supporting each element of their claim. In a Georgia premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant had greater knowledge of the hazard.

Here, the court held that the plaintiff’s evidence showing the defendant had knowledge of the cord’s presence was circumstantial. In other words, there was no direct evidence showing that the defendant knew that the cord was there and the plaintiff wanted the court to infer that, because the defendant owned similar cords and was doing yard work earlier that day, he was the one to place the cord along the stairs. However, the court explained that the defendant’s testimony explicitly disclaimed any knowledge of the cord.

The court acknowledged that a plaintiff could survive a defense motion for summary judgment with only circumstantial evidence. However, if a defendant presents conflicting evidence, then the plaintiff must be able to challenge that evidence. Here, the plaintiff relied solely on circumstantial evidence and could not contest the defendant’s testimony that he was unaware of the cord. The court also noted that the cord itself was not preserved as evidence and that there were not even pictures of the cord.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Atlanta personal injury lawsuit. At McAleer Law, we represent injury victims and their family members in personal injury claims, including those arising out of car accidents, injuries caused by dangerous products, and medical malpractice. To learn more about how our dedicated team of injury lawyers can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.

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