Jury Finds in Favor of a Georgia Cleaning Company for Slip and Fall

In a recent case, a woman sued a cleaning company, alleging that it had been negligent in how it cleaned her workplace and as a result, she had been hurt in a slip and fall. She had been working for the corporate offices of a hotel group when she walked through a library at work and slipped on a foreign substance. She hurt her hands, knees and back. She reported the injury to a supervisor and got treated at the hospital. She needed three knee surgeries.
The cleaning company was an independent contractor that routinely cleaned the workplace. According to the plaintiff, the cleaning company had created a slick area on the floor with furniture polish.
At trial, the cleaning company cross-examined the plaintiff, asking her about pre-existing pain and her swollen knee. It gave a closing argument that emphasized the speculative quality of the evidence related to the slick area.
The jury found in favor of the cleaning company. The trial court denied her motion for a new trial. The woman appealed, claiming that the judge gave an improper jury instruction by entering a judgment not supported by evidence and by letting the cleaning company present a closing argument after it had already waived the argument.
She argued that the jury instruction falsely stated the law on premises liability, even though she had claimed the cleaning service was negligent. The distinction she drew was that the cleaning company was not an owner or occupier, and therefore premises liability law did not apply. She argued that the jury instruction was therefore likely to confuse the jury.
The trial court sustained the objection and offered a re-instruction. A curative instruction was given, and there were no further objections. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed.
Similarly, the plaintiff challenged a jury instruction related to the defendant’s status as an independent contractor who had no duty apart from the specified janitorial services to keep invitees safe. The cleaning service argued this instruction accurately stated the law and cited a case. The plaintiff argued the case was a premises liability case. The appellate court explained that nonetheless the same rule applies. An independent contractor doesn’t have an independent duty as an occupier/owner to inspect the premises for the safety of invitees of the employer.
The plaintiff’s theory of recovery was predicated on the allegation that the cleaning company had been negligent in applying or allowing the furniture polish to slip on the floor such that she slipped and fell. The appellate court explained the liability claimed didn’t arise from failure to perform an inspection duty. It arose from negligent cleaning. The appellate court found that the jury instruction was applicable.
Similarly, the plaintiff challenged a jury instruction stating that damages were compensation for injuries and that only nominal damages would be given for small injuries and this was up to the jury’s discretion. The plaintiff claimed this was duplicative. The appellate court explained that repetition did not authorize reversal. The jury could have found that the slip and fall caused only a nominal difficulty with her knee and that most of the problem was a pre-existing knee problem.
Similarly, the plaintiff’s other points of challenge were technical or the result of misunderstandings that did not give rise to a tactical advantage for the defense. The appellate court affirmed.
If you are hurt due to negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. 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.
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