Premises Liability

Negligent Security and Premises Liability Law in Atlanta, Georgia

Premises liability is an area of law involving the legal obligations and duties owed by property owners and other parties having control over the condition of property. In Georgia, premises liability lawsuits may be brought against homeowners, landlords, retailers and other businesses, property managers and even government entities who negligently fail to keep their premises reasonably safe for use by a tenant, customer, patron or other invitee.

Under Georgia law, the duty of care owed by a landowner or party with control over property depends on the legal status of the person visiting the property. The highest duty owed by landowners and others is the duty to exercise ordinary care to keep premises and approaches reasonably safe against foreseeable risks of injury. This duty is owed to visitors or occupants of property who are considered “invitees,” or persons invited onto property by the owner or occupier for a lawful business purpose. The invitation may be express, such as customers of a retail business or restaurant or guests in a home or apartment complex, or may be implied by circumstances. Common examples of invitees include customers of a retail business, restaurant, hotel, movie theatre, bank, or other commercial establishment, tenants in an apartment complex or building, museum patrons, paid parking lots, employees who are not covered by workers’ compensation, visitors to courts and other government offices, and other individuals invited onto property for a lawful (typically, but not always, commercial) purpose.

A lower duty of care is owed by landowners and occupiers to “licensees” or persons permitted to go onto premises for their own purposes, convenience or gratification and have no business or contractual relationship with the owner. The duty owed to licensees is to exercise ordinary care to prevent a known or reasonably expected risk of injury due to a dangerous act or condition, also referred to as “wilful or wanton injury.” In most cases, social guests (for example, houseguests) are considered licensees. Finally, landowners and occupiers do not owe any duty of care to trespassers, or persons on property without legal permission.

Dangerous conditions can arise from numerous circumstances and acts or omissions by owners and occupiers of property including improper maintenance or disrepair, building code violations, deficient safety checks, protocols and procedures, failure to warn of known hazards, etc. While it is not possible to list every specific hazard or negligent act or omission that may give rise to a premises liability claim, below are a few common examples:

  • A slip and fall on concrete walkways, sidewalks or curbs that are cracked or uneven, improperly maintained or marked, painted or sealed with defective compound, inadequately illuminated or lit, slippery due to the presence of standing water, ice or other hazardous substance, etc.;
  • A slip and fall on concrete, tile or other floors due to standing water or foreign substances (such as banana peels or other fallen food), wax or other cleaners, failure to clean or post signs of hazardous conditions or substances on floor, loose or chipped tiles or floorboards, etc.;
  • A trip and fall on stairs that violate applicable building or safety standards due to risers that exceed a maximum allowed height, treads that are too narrow, slippery, uneven or improperly sloped, broken or improperly maintained handrails, etc.;
  • Falling merchandise, items, boxes and other objects due to improper unloading or stacking, faulty shelving or shelving in disrepair, inadequate access by customers, or failure to warn or prohibit customers from attempting to reach high objects;
  • Burns, inhalation, organ and other injuries due to malfunctioning or inadequate smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and other fire safety devices, improper fire safety protocols, negligent or malfunctioning electrical wiring, leaking or fault propane tanks, gas leaks, etc.;
  • Injuries caused by improperly maintained, defective or unsafe escalators, motorized or moving pedestrian walkways, elevators and similar devices;
  • Physical and emotional injuries suffered from gunshots, physical altercations or fights, sexual assaults, rapes or other attacks resulting from inadequate training or supervision, inadequate or negligent security and other failures by a property owner, business, apartment complex, or management company;
  • Animal attacks, dog bites and similar injuries caused by an owner’s negligent failure to leash, confine or control an animal.

Under Georgia premises liability law, injury victims may hold the owner or occupier of property liable for negligently causing or failing to repair, correct or warn about these and other unsafe conditions which can lead to personal injuries such as broken bones and fractures, gunshot wounds, closed head injuries, back and leg pain, disk problems, sexual assaults, catastrophic injuries and even wrongful death. In most cases, knowledge of the dangerous condition is a critical issue – both the knowledge of the property owner or business and the knowledge of the injury victim. Typically, the basis for liability is the owner’s superior or better knowledge of the hazard than that of the injured visitor. The individual facts and evidence in each case must be carefully reviewed to determine if a viable claim exists that could both survive summary judgment (dismissal by the court) and convince a jury at trial.

In many premises liability cases, an experienced Atlanta, Georgia premises liability attorney familiar with the law and evidentiary requirements will retain an engineer, accident reconstruction, negligent security or other expert or experts to investigate, document and ascertain the failures of owner or management. It is critical that evidence be timely and properly preserved for later use in litigation, and defendants be timely notified of potential legal claims and instructed to preserve all video or audio recordings, witness statements and interviews, photographs or drawings and other evidence. The attorney should also be familiar with mental health counselors and other professionals who can assess and treat psychological and emotional injuries arising from these cases. To ensure that legal rights are timely preserved and pursued, persons injured on another’s property should promptly consult with an experienced premises liability attorney for advice concerning the proper handling of your case.

The Atlanta, Georgia premises liability attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have more than 20 years of experience fighting for the rights of persons injured as the result of the negligence or wrongful acts of property owners, landlords, management companies and other parties, including victims who have suffered catastrophic or debilitating injuries or the loss of loved ones in wrongful death claims. Our attorneys have a proven track record, both in and out of the courtroom, of achieving maximum recoveries for our clients. Click here to view some of our notable results, and click here to see what our clients say about our experience and dedication in handling their cases.

If you, a friend or loved one has been injured or killed as the result of an unsafe property condition or inadequate or negligent security, call or contact our experienced premises liability attorneys in Atlanta today for a free consultation.