I have started a series of legal blog entries about Georgia premises liability
law. As I explained in my last post, under Georgia law, a property owner
“is not an insurer of the safety of the guests.” At the same
time, however, the owner does have a duty “to exercise ordinary
care to protect its guests from unreasonable risks of which the innkeeper
has superior knowledge, and if an innkeeper has reason to anticipate criminal
acts, it has the duty to exercise ordinary care to guard against injury
caused by dangerous characters. Lau’s Corporation, Inc., v. Haskins,
[261 Ga. 491, 405 S.E.2d 474 (1991)].”
Matt v. Days Inns of America, Inc., 212 Ga. App. 792, 794, 443 S.E.2d 290 (1994). See also Shoney’s,
Inc., v. Hudson, 218 Ga.App. 171, 460 S.E.2d 809, cert. denied (1995);
Days Inn v. Matt, 265 Ga. 235, 454 S.E.2d 507 (1995).
As a Decatur premises liability lawyer, I hear about people injured in
crimes all over Georgia, ranging from a gun shooting at a restaurant in
Marietta, to an attack by a drunk guest wielding a knife in a downtown
Atlanta hotel, to a rape in an apartment complex in Duluth. Many times,
the property owner is not liable for these crimes under Georgia law. However,
the Georgia legal rule is that a property owner must “protect someone
on his property from injury ’caused by the misconduct of employees,
customers and third persons
if there is any reasonable apprehension of danger from the conduct of said
persons or if injury could be prevented by the proprietor through the
exercise of ordinary care and diligence.’ (Cit.).”McCoy v. Gay, 165 Ga.App. 590, 591, 302 S.E.2d 130 (1983);
Confetti Atlanta, Ltd. v. Gray, 202 Ga.App. 241, 414 S.E.2d 265 (1991), cert. denied (1992) (emphasis added).
In other words, if a Smyrna restaurant owner has reason to expect that
a crime is likely to occur at the restaurant, the restaurant has a duty
to take steps to protect its patrons from injuries.
To be clear, the Georgia law does not say that a property owner has to
expect the exact crime that occurred. See
McNeal v. Days Inn of America, Inc., 230 Ga.App. 786, 498 S.E.2d 294, cert. denied (1998). The landlord also
does not have to “have been able to anticipate the particular consequences
which ensued.” So, for example, if a woman is attacked and raped
in the parking deck at a Marietta apartment complex, the owner does not
have to have expected that that very woman would be attacked, and raped,
on November 4, 2010, in that particular parking deck.
Under Georgia premises liability law, an East Point apartment complex,
or a Savannah hotel owner, is liable for injuries a Georgia customer received
from a crime, “if in ordinary prudence he might have foreseen some
injury would result from his act or omission and that consequences of
a generally injurious nature might result….” Hosp. Auth.
of Hall County v. Adams, 110 Ga.App. 848, 850(4), 140 S.E.2d 139 (1964).”
Bayshore Company v. Pruitt, 175 Ga.App. 679, 334 S.E.2d 213, cert. denied (1985).