Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit discussing a legal doctrine that can be used by some plaintiffs to excuse their failure to notice a hazard on the defendant’s property.
Georgia Premises Liability Law
While landowners owe visitors a duty to maintain a safe location, courts will only impose liability on a landowner when the plaintiff can show that the landowner had superior knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall. The idea is that a landowner cannot be negligent for failing to warn someone of a danger that they did not know existed.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a frequent customer at the defendant hardware store. One day, the plaintiff was shopping for a specific item, and approached a sales associate in the garden section for assistance. The floor in the garden area was wet, and there were several “wet floor” signs placed around the area. The sale associate told the plaintiff to follow him, which the plaintiff did. As the plaintiff was following the sales associate, he slipped in a small puddle of water, and was seriously injured as a result.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was negligent in safely maintaining the store. In response, the hardware store argued that the plaintiff should have been aware of the wet floor because it was open and obvious. The plaintiff alleged that, under the distraction doctrine, his failure to notice the wet floor was excusable. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the reason he did not notice the wet floor was that he was distracted by the sales associate.
The Distraction Doctrine
The distraction doctrine provides that a person “is not bound to the same degree of care in discovering or apprehending danger in moments of stress or excitement or when the attention has been necessarily diverted.”
The Court’s Opinion
The court explained that the distraction doctrine did not apply to the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that, for the doctrine to apply, the distraction must be caused by the defendant or the defendant’s agent. Here, it was the plaintiff who approached the sales associate and asked for assistance. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff, in effect, was responsible for his own distraction. The court went on to explain that a plaintiff should not be able to benefit from a distraction that he was responsible for creating.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Slip-and-Fall?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident, reach out to the dedicated Georgia personal injury lawyers at McAleer Law. At McAleer Law, we have extensive experience assisting injury victims in pursuit of all types of Georgia personal injury and wrongful death claims, including those arising from Georgia slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your situation, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.
See More Posts:
Georgia Slip-and-Fall Case Dismissed Based on Lack of Evidence Indicating the Defendant Was Aware of the Hazard that Caused the Plaintiff’s Fall, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 5, 2018.
Georgia Court Rejects Defendant’s Spoliation Claim Against Personal Injury Plaintiff, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, November 14, 2018.