No Evidence of a Hazardous Condition in Georgia Premises Liability Case

Georgia requires landowners or occupiers to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for invitees. However, landowners need not guarantee their invitees’ safety. Someone who is injured on another person’s property must actually show a hazardous condition. In a recent premises liability case, a woman sued a company that operated bowling alleys in Georgia.

The woman and her husband were Florida residents visiting their adult son and daughter-in-law in Georgia. One morning, they decided to go bowling. They rented bowling shoes and started bowling. They entered their names into the scoring computer.

The computer displayed a warning that it did not assume liability for injuries and to report spills. The woman knew through prior experience that the lane was cleaned and oiled so that the bowling ball could travel down the lane. The woman’s daughter-in-law went first and didn’t mention anything wrong with the alley. When the woman approached the foul line, her feet slipped and she fell on her back. She was four feet past the foul line with her legs pointing at the pins. She suffered multiple injuries, including an ankle fracture.
She sued the bowling alley for damages resulting from the slip and fall. At her deposition, she testified that she didn’t see oil in the area before the foul line because she wasn’t looking down. Rather she believed there was oil because she slipped. Neither her son nor daughter-in-law could testify as to oil in the approach area.

The company stated in its response to an interrogatory that the oiling machine is never placed on the side of the foul line where patrons stand and was preset not to start oiling until it was 6 inches away.

The company filed for summary judgment. It argued that there was no genuine issue of material fact about whether its negligence created a hazard causing the woman to slip and fall. She replied she had raised those issues. The trial court granted the company’s motion.

She appealed, arguing that there was a question of fact for the jury in whether the company’s negligence created a hazardous condition causing her fall and whether the company had superior knowledge of the hazard.

The appellate court affirmed the summary judgment. It explained that in Georgia, an owner or land-occupier has a statutory duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for those it has invited. however, an owner is not an insurer of an invitees’ safety. The threshold question for a suit of this kind to proceed is whether there was a hazardous condition on the premises.

Proof of a fall is not enough to create landowner liability. Rather, the plaintiff must show a hazardous condition. Without that, an essential element is missing from her premises liability suit. In this case, the woman had only speculated that there was oil on the approach side of the foul line. She had not actually seen any oil. Her conjecture or inference was not enough to raise a disputed issue.

Her son had noticed oil on the foul side of the bowling lane, but not on the side where patrons stand to bowl. In fact, the daughter-in-law had just stood in that area without falling or noticing slipperiness previously. As such, the appellate court affirmed the summary judgment.

If you are hurt on somebody else’s property, you may be wondering if you can file a premises liability lawsuit. Experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune can evaluate your case and fight for any compensation you may deserve. Contact us at 404-875-7800 or via our online form.