Category: Slip and Fall

Slip and Falls in Georgia: Building Code Violations

Slip and falls at commercial properties often involves allegations that a property was “out of code.” The purpose of Georgia’s building codes is to protect public health, safety, and general welfare regarding construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. In other words, Georgia courts and the Georgia legislature have concluded it’s in everyone’s best interest for buildings and structures to be built with at least a minimum level of safety in mind.

In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 8-2-20(9)(B) is the statute that covers mandatory and permissive state codes. Each of these separate codes typically consist of a base code (e.g., The International Building Code as published by the International Code Council) and a set of Georgia amendments to the base code. The mandatory codes are applicable to all construction whether or not they are locally enforced and the permissive codes are only applicable if a local government chooses to adopt and enforce one or more of these codes.

Georgia courts have ruled that violation of a building code is negligence per se, and evidence of non-conformity with building code standards may be proof of a landowner’s superior knowledge of a defect. In Georgia, someone who falls generally cannot recover unless the landowner knew of or should have known of the danger.

This all sounds good, but dow does it work in real life? When a client comes to us who was injured due to a fall at a commercial property–and it appears there may be a building code violation–we hire an engineering expert to go out to the property to view/measure the condition of the building and render an opinion. Often times our expert will look at such things as the riser heights of stairs and height of railings. If the expert finds a building code violation, this significantly strengthens a claim against the landowner. A building code violation shows objectively that the premise was unsafe, and makes it difficult for the landowner to claim lack of knowledge.

If you’ve been injured in a fall, please call us at 404-392-9994 to discuss your options.

Slip and Fall in a Parking Lot

Who is responsible when you’re injured in a shopping center parking lot. Is it the store you were shopping in? Is it the owner of the shopping center? Or, is it both? These were the issues decided in a recent Georgia appellate case. See Boyd v. Big Lots Stores, Inc., 18A1140 (July 31, 2018).

In what is likely one of his last opinions, Judge Andrews, writing for the court, predictably sides against the injury party. Judge Andrews is retiring from the bench, and for attorneys who represent injured parties, it can’t come soon enough. While Judge Andrews authors intelligent, articulate opinions, he typically sides with businesses and insurance companies.

With regard to parking lot injuries, the general rule is that a business must keep its premises and approaches safe for its customers. This includes protecting its customers from known dangerous conditions in the parking lot. In the Big Lots case, the customer was injured 45-feet away way from the store entrance. The Court of Appeals explained that an “approach” to a premises refers to property that is within the last few steps taken by the customer, as opposed to mere pedestrians. More specifically, an approach “is that property directly contiguous, adjacent to, and touching those entryways to [the] premises under the control of an owner or occupier of land, through which the owner or occupier, by express or implied invitation, has induced or led others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, and through which such owner or occupier could foresee a reasonable invitee would find it necessary or convenient to traverse while entering or exiting in the course of the business for which the invitation was extended.”

In Big Lots, the customer exited the store, walked across a sidewalk, and continued away from the store into the parking lot. The Court decided she was no longer within the store’s “approach” when she slipped and fell because the area was not adjacent to or touching the entry/exit of the store.

Although Big Lots got out of the case, all was not lost for the injured party as she still has a claim against the owner of the shopping center for her injuries.