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I have been blogging about when a property owner or manager (like a restaurant,
or an apartment complex, a hotel, etc.) will be liable for failing to
provide adequate security for its guests and patrons.

O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1.

Most premises liability cases involve an owner’s failure to make
the premises secure over the long run. For example, if a Marietta apartment
complex stopped security patrols to save money, it could foresee that
someone might suffer a personal injury in a Marietta apartment complex
criminal attack. If a Savannah hotel failed to install peepholes in the
door, it could foresee that because of its inadequate security a guest
might open the door to someone who turned out to be a criminal. Generally
premises liability cases involve this sort of long-term failure to take
actions that could make a difference in the safety of the people on its
premises .

Sometimes, however, an owner’s duty might accrue very quickly, as
the result of a particular situation. In that case, the owner sees that
a particular incident is coming, and has a duty to take action to stop
it. For example, in
Mulligan’s Bar & Grill v. Stanfield, 294 Ga. App. 250 (Ga. Ct. App. 2008), an innocent bystander was hit by
a flying beer bottle during a bar fight between two other patrons. The
innocent patron sued the bar, alleging that long before he got hurt, the
bar should have stopped the Glynn County criminal attack that caused the
personal injury. A jury found in favor of the man who had been hurt, awarding
him $192,100. The Glynn County bar appealed, but the Georgia Court of
Appeals affirmed, finding that the bar was on full notice that the two
patrons had been fighting for quite some time that evening. Ironically,
one of the men had been banished from the bar for earlier incidents, and
should not have been in the bar at all.

In this case, the Court viewed the incident in the short run, looking at
the particular incident that led up to the Glynn County injury: “the
fight which resulted in Stanfield’s injuries was foreseeable and
could have been avoided if Mulligan’s had banished the patrons involved
in the fight.” In other words, the Court looked at the fact that
the fight occurring that very night had gone on for quite some time, and
found that at some point the Glynn County bar should have stepped in and
banished the men who were fighting. Instead, the bar had done nothing
to deescalate the situation, and instead had “allowed the combative
patrons to remain on the premises for an inordinate amount of time until
Stanfield’s foreseeable and permanent injury occurred.”

As a
Georgia premises liability lawyer, I have had some clients whose cases involved what I will call an “emergent
situation” like the one in Mulligan’s. This situation is unusual,
however. The law does not require that a property owner be on notice that
a particular incident is unfolding, and as I mentioned earlier, in most
inadequate security cases, the failure to provide security is more general
and occurs over a longer period of time.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.