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.