Callaway Gardens Resort, Inc. v. Grant et al. (8/31/22)
by Diana Moore
Holding: Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs on the issue of causation finding that plaintiff’s arguments created circumstantial evidence, which created a jury question as to causation and there were disputed factual issues as to whether the sidewalk condition was open and obvious.
- “[w]here the plaintiff does not know of a cause or cannot prove the cause, there can be no recovery because an essential element of negligence cannot be proven…[W]hen…the probabilities are at best evenly balanced it is appropriate for the court to grant summary judgment to the defendant.”
- “To survive summary judgment, a plaintiff must point to ‘some evidence beyond speculation that a condition of the premises caused the fall. Nevertheless, circumstantial evidence that raises a reasonable inference of the cause of a fall may be sufficient to survive summary judgment.’”
- “If ‘reasonable minds can differ on the cause of the injury, the case is not plain, palpable, and indisputable and it should go to the jury.’”
- “A static condition is one that does not change and is dangerous only if someone fails to see it and walks into it. If nothing obstructs the invitee’s ability to see the static condition, the proprietor may safely assume that the invitee will see it and will realize the associated risks.”
- “An uneven walkway is a static condition.”
- “[w]here an obstruction is perfectly obvious and apparent, so that one looking ahead would necessarily see it, the fact that the plaintiff merely failed to look will not relieve her from the responsibility for her misadventure. The issue here, then, is whether the evidence is ‘plain, palpable, and undisputed’ that nothing obstructed Holder’s ability to see the uneven sidewalk and that the hazard ‘was or should have been visible to her.’”
Harbin v. Ritch (7/26/22)
by Diana Moore
Holding: Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendants on the basis that there were questions surrounding whether the Defendants had knowledge of the risks of fireworks at a crowded party.
- “With respect to licensees, a property owner owes a duty not to cause wilful or wanton injury. Generally, ‘wilful misconduct’ is ‘an actual intention to do harm or inflict injury,’ and wanton misconduct is ‘that which is so reckless or so charged with indifference to the consequences as to be the equivalent in spirit to actual intent.’”
- “A property owner, however, also acts wilfully and wantonly by failing to ‘exercise ordinary care to prevent injuring a person who is actually known to be or may reasonably be expected to be, within range of a dangerous act being done or hidden peril on [the] premises.’”
- “A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to licensees by a condition on the land if, but only if, (a) the possessor knows or has reason to know of the condition and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such licensees, and should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, and (b) he fails to exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe, or to warn the licensees of the condition and the risk involved, and (c) the licensees do not know or have reason to know of the condition and the risk involved. Where a licensee has equal knowledge of the dangerous condition or the risks involved, there is no wilful or wanton action on the part of the owner and there is no liability to the licensee.”
Children’s World Learning Ctr v. Carter (10/18/22)
by Chelsea Cooke
Holding: Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a daycare center’s summary judgment motion on claims of premises liability, respondent superior based on its employee’s alleged negligence, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision. The court ruled that there was no evidence of any defective condition on the daycare’s playground nor was there evidence of the daycare’s superior knowledge of any purported defect on the playground when a child broke her arm while attending the daycare center.
- “To determine whether a childcare provider breached their duty of care to the child, we must compare their actions to the standard of the average responsible parent.”
- “A daycare provider is not an insurer of the safety of the child and has no duty to foresee and guard against every possible hazard.”
Whitehead v. Green as the Parent of Green (10/17/22)
by Chelsea Cooke
Holding: Court of Appeals reversed denials of summary judgment of defendant pool owners and defendant pool manufacturer for a child drowning, holding that there was no evidence that pool owners willfully and wantonly caused the drowning, that the dangers of the swimming pool were open and obvious, and that there was a lack of evidence showing defendant had knowledge that the pool contained dangerous features.
- “As a social guest . . . [child] was a licensee. And a property owner incurs liability for breaching a duty to a licensee only for willfully or wantonly allowing a dangerous static condition … to cause her injuries. In other words, under Georgia law, a property owner owes a licensee a duty not to willfully and wantonly injure her, and the property owner cannot knowingly let a licensee run upon a hidden peril on the premises or willfully cause her harm. Additionally, wanton conduct has been defined as that which is so reckless or so charged with indifference to the consequences as to be the equivalent in spirit to actual intent to do harm or inflict injury. But importantly, a property owner must actually know about and foresee a dangerous condition before a duty to protect arises”
- “A licensee is a person who . . . [i]s neither a customer, a servant, nor a trespasser; . . . [d]oes not stand in any contractual relation with the owner of the premises; and . . . [i]s permitted, expressly or impliedly, to go on the premises merely for his own interests, convenience, or gratification.”
- “A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to licensees by a condition on the land if, but only if, (a) the possessor knows or has reason to know of the condition and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such licensees, and should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, and (b) he fails to exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe, or to warn the licensees of the condition and the risk involved, and (c) the licensees do not know or have reason to know of the condition and the risk involved.”
- “A party [host] is not an insurer of social guests; nor does mere ownership or physical control over a swimming pool result in absolute liability for injuries sustained by social guests.”
- “when a condition within a swimming pool is itself open and obvious (such as cloudy water, which can decrease visibility of people and objects), pool owners have no duty to warn of such conditions. This is, of course, in stark contrast with conditions that are notopen and obvious, such as pool drains with dangerous suction power or pool depths that are difficult to decipher.”
Tara Bridge Apartments, LP v. Benson (10/7/22)
by Chelsea Cooke
Holding: Court of Appeals reversed a denial of defendant apartment owner’s summary judgment motion in connection with an assault in an apartment complex, noting that the plaintiff failed to establish evidence that an apartment window was malfunctioning at the time of the assault or that the assailant used the window to access the property, and therefore could not prove causation.
- “It is well settled in Georgia that a proprietor owes its invitees a duty “to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” A landowner, however, “is not an insurer of an invitee’s safety. An intervening criminal act by a third party generally insulates a landowner from liability unless such criminal act was reasonably foreseeable.”
- “If the owner has reason to anticipate a criminal act, he or she then has a duty to exercise ordinary care to guard against injury from dangerous characters. But, an owner is not bound to anticipate or foresee and provide against that which is unusual or that which is only remotely and slightly probable. Indeed, without foreseeability that a criminal act by a third party will occur, the proprietor has no duty to exercise ordinary care to prevent the act.”
- “A premises liability claim based on attacks by a third-party requires both foreseeability of an attack and a showing that the landlord’s conduct is the contributing cause of the attack.”
- “Significantly, a mere possibility of such causation is not enough; and when the matter remains one of pure speculation or conjecture, or the probabilities are at best evenly balanced, it becomes the duty of the court to grant summary judgment for the defendant.”