Every landowner has a responsibility to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers, guests, and other visitors. For example, an Atlanta property owner must regularly inspect their land for hazards which could put invitees in danger. A landowner who never inspects their property or corrects issues cannot avoid liability for any subsequent damages that a visitor suffers.
In Atlanta, a property owner’s standard of care is defined by what a prudent and reasonable landowner would do under similar circumstances. Ultimately, that is determined by a jury based on the evidence a plaintiff and their legal counsel presents. For help with understanding the duty of an Atlanta property owner in premises liability cases, get in touch with a member of our legal team.
The Dangers of Remaining Unaware of Landowner Obligations
Ignorance of the law is no excuse for a landowner to not keep their property safe. However, ignorance of a hazardous property condition could be a defense because the injured plaintiff has an obligation to prove that the landowner had prior knowledge of the danger and failed to remedy it in a timely manner.
The duty of an Atlanta property owner in premises liability cases depends largely on classifying visitors. For example, landowners owe the highest standard of care to invitees. Generally, invitees are guests allowed on the property for a mutually beneficial purpose. For example, customers in a retail store or guests at a hotel or restaurant would qualify as invitees.
Alternatively, a licensee is not prohibited from entering the property but does not fit the criteria of being invited as a customer. This can include a party guest or a maintenance worker such as a plumber. An invitation to a property can be explicit or implied. For instance, an invitation to a party would be explicit, whereas an implicit invitation would be an open store obviously hoping for customers to enter.
On the other hand, trespassers are owed the least amount of care under the law. Qualifying a person’s behavior as trespassing depends on the specific circumstances of their situation. Someone on a residential property without permission or an invitation may be considered a trespasser. Similarly, if a property is fenced or specifically marked to keep out, almost anyone there without explicit invitation would be treated as a trespasser under the law.
Attractive Nuisance Doctrine and Child Injuries
An attractive nuisance is any feature of a property that may entice children to wander onto a property and get hurt. For example, a child is likely to wander onto a property that has a pool without a fence around it and may end up drowning without supervision. A property owner who fails to secure their pool with a fence would be maintaining an attractive nuisance and could be subject to liability for injuries that occur to a child as a result of their negligence.
City-owned property entails certain landowner duties under Atlanta premises liability law. It is very important that a person with a claim against Atlanta or any municipal government entity evaluate their case with legal sovereign immunity in mind. This means that even when the state, city, or county acts negligently, it can only be sued under specific circumstances. The concept of legal sovereign immunity originates from when a person could not sue their king and is still used in modern cases.
To file an injury claim against a government entity, a person must first discern whether it is immune from their claim. In Atlanta, there is an ante litem notice requirement which specifies that a person must give specific written notice of their claim to the government agency within a certain amount of time. Additionally, the statute of limitations applies legal time frames for when a claimant can file a civil suit to all types of legal claims in Atlanta.
Liability for Third Party Criminal Conduct
A landlord could be held liable for the criminal conduct of a third party on their premises based on their failure to implement adequate security. While a property owner is not automatically responsible for a crime committed against their invitees, they must act reasonably to remove or mitigate the hazard presented by criminal activity. For instance, they could hire security and implement fencing, lighting, cameras, controlled-access gates, and police patrols.