Georgia Supreme Court Dismisses Defendant’s Summary Judgment Challenge in Recent Premises Liability Opinion

Earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case that was brought by a woman who was seriously injured when a tree that had previously sustained major damage fell on her while a maintenance worker was attempted to safely lower the tree to the ground. The case presented several interesting questions regarding the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court affirmed a lower court ruling that permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a tenant at an apartment complex owned and operated by the defendants. During a particularly nasty storm, a tree on an adjacent piece of property sustained major wind damage and toppled over, landing partially on top of the apartment building. The plaintiff was concerned about the danger the tree posed and contacted the defendants, asking them to remove the tree.

After several attempts at contacting the defendants, the tree remained suspended from the apartment building. The plaintiff knew a fellow resident who occasionally worked for the defendants, performing maintenance throughout the complex when it was necessary. The plaintiff contacted the maintenance worker and arranged to have him take down the tree.

The plaintiff took the maintenance worker to where the tree was suspended from the building, and the maintenance worker agreed to remove the tree. The worker threw a rope over the tree and began to pull. At the same time, the plaintiff decided to go warn the resident in the immediately adjacent apartment. Unfortunately, the maintenance worker pulled the tree down right as the plaintiff was walking underneath, and the tree fell on top of the plaintiff, resulting in serious injuries.

The plaintiff sued the defendants, claiming that they were negligent in maintaining the common area of the apartment complex. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries as a matter of law and making the following arguments:

  • That the defendants did not have knowledge of the fallen tree, and given the circumstances, there was no reason they should have obtained such knowledge;
  • That the maintenance worker was not working as an employee of the defendants at the time, and the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from his negligence; and
  • That the plaintiff was in the best position to avoid harm because she had greater knowledge of the hazard than the defendants did.

Ultimately, the court rejected each of the defendants’ arguments, determining that a material question of fact existed regarding each claim. Since material questions of fact remained unanswered, the case was not appropriate for summary judgment dismissal. As a result, the plaintiff’s case will proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Accident on Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on the property of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. The skilled Georgia personal injury attorneys at McAleer Law have an extensive knowledge of personal injury law and experience bringing all types of personal injury cases across the state. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated premises liability attorney, call 404-622-5337.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Permits Plaintiffs to Add Defendant and Amend Expert Affidavit Beyond Statute of Limitations, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 25, 2017.

Court Excludes Key Witness at Trial Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Identify Witness Before Trial, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 27, 2017.

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