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Trip and Fall Case Against City Fails for Lack of Notice of Static Defect

In a recent opinion, a state appellate court determined that a Georgia slip-and-fall plaintiff’s case should be dismissed based on the plaintiff’s failure to present any evidence showing that the defendant city knew of the hazard the plaintiff claimed caused her injuries. In so doing, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that a photograph of the hazard was sufficient to give rise to an inference that the city should have known about the hazard presence. Translation from lawyerese? If you can't prove that the problem in the sidewalk had been there long enough, you will have your case thrown out and simply showing the judge a picture of an uncertain date, does not prove that the city knew or should have known about it. 

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking along a sidewalk in the City of St. Marys to get some exercise. The portion of the sidewalk that the plaintiff was on was owned and maintained by the city. At some point during her walk, the plaintiff tripped and fell, breaking her arm.Initially, the plaintiff did not know what caused her fall. However, after she got up and gathered herself, she noticed that there was a raised lip where two concrete slabs met. The lip was about 1.5 to 2 inches high. The plaintiff explained that she could have noticed the raised portion of the sidewalk, but that she didn’t notice it that day. Additionally, she stated that, because she did not see the hazard, she wasn’t certain that it was what caused her to trip, but that she “just knew that her feet hit something.”

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, claiming it was negligent in allowing the sidewalk to exist in that condition without either warning passersby or taking some action to fix it. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented a photograph of the concrete slabs taken shortly after her fall. The plaintiff argued that, given the significant height difference between the slabs, even a “cursory inspection” of the sidewalk would have revealed it to be a hazard.The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that the city had knowledge of the hazard. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff, determining that the plaintiff’s photo showed that the hazard had existed for some length of time. The court denied the city’s motion and the city appealed.

The Case Is Reversed on Appeal

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, agreeing with the city. The court explained that Georgia premise liability plaintiffs must establish that the defendant had knowledge of the hazard. The court explained that a photograph can assist in establishing how long a condition had been present, but it must be supported by additional corroborating evidence, otherwise the court would be forced to speculate regarding the age of the hazard.

Here, the court held that the plaintiff’s photograph was not sufficient to establish the city’s knowledge of the hazard. The court noted that the photograph only showed the condition of the hazard at a single point in time, and without additional evidence there was nothing indicating the city had knowledge of its existence. Thus, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

Have You Been injured on Public Property?If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia slip-and-fall accident that occurred on public property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Christopher M. Simon is a dedicated Georgia personal injury attorney with extensive experience assisting injury victims and their families recover fair compensation for what they have been put through. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with Attorney Simon today call 404-259-7635.
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