Georgia Court Confirms Superior Knowledge Doctrine for Slip and Fall Injury Cases
In July 2009, the Georgia Court of Appeals confirmed the superior knowledge doctrine for slip and fall injury cases. The controversial superior knowledge doctrine means that an injured customer or visitor must prove that the property owner had knowledge of the hazard that caused the slip and fall injury. The victim must also prove that he or she lacked knowledge of said hazard and took reasonable care to avoid the hazard.
The superior knowledge doctrine is not a Georgia statute; rather, it has been created and confirmed by various court decision. The Georgia premises liability statute states that a property owner is “liable in damages for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe” when he invites someone onto his property for any lawful reason. Customers of businesses are considered invited guests, or invitees.
Since the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff, many Georgia slip and fall injury cases are dismissed before a trial. If there is no evidence that the owner knew about the hazard, the owner cannot be held liable in most cases. The plaintiff must prove that a hazardous condition existed and that the owner knew or should have known about the hazard. A plaintiff may win a slip and fall case by proving that an employee had actual knowledge of a hazard or that employees should have known about the hazard if they were taking reasonable care to protect customers.
In slip and fall cases, prior injuries of a similar nature may be presented to show that the property owner should have known about the hazard. Likewise, violations of ordinances and codes may also be used as evidence that the owner was negligent and should have known about the hazard. However, even in cases of code violations, the case may be dismissed if the plaintiff also knew about the hazard and did not take reasonable steps to avoid it.
When you’re in a restaurant or other establishment where slips and falls are common, be careful! It is your responsibility to take reasonable care in avoiding hazards. If you suffer a slip and fall injury, collect evidence immediately; this will be vital to your case. Take photos of the hazard that caused the fall. If you don’t have a cell phone camera or digital camera on hand, buy a cheap disposable camera. Collect contact information from witnesses. Make sure that the manager on-duty fills out some type of incident report, and make sure that you get a copy of the report. Finally, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Slip and fall injury cases and other premises liability cases can be vastly complicated. The burden of proof falls on the plaintiff, and it’s often difficult to prove that an owner had prior knowledge of a hazard. However, an experienced personal injury attorney will uncover several different options for pursuing these cases.
If you’ve suffered a slip and fall injury in Georgia, you need an experienced Georgia premises liability attorney. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.