Slip and Fall Case Illustrates Potential Litigation Challenges


March 29, 2011

If a person suffers serious injuries or wrongful death in a slip and fall incident on another person’s business premises, most families assume that they will prevail at trial for the death of their loved one. However, slip and fall accident victims may face legal and factual obstacles. There are a number of factors that affect the likely outcome in a slip and fall accident and can make it more difficult to prevail in a settlement or at trial. A recent example is Klairmont v. Gainsboro Restaurant Inc., a case in which a Northeastern University student had a fatal fall on the stairs of a Boston bar.

Unfortunately, there were no witnesses, and the student, Samuel Freeman, was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Although the student was tragically killed, the lack of evidence contributed to his estate's loss in court. If you are seriously injured in a Georgia slip and fall accident or your loved one suffers wrongful death, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. The experienced Georgia slip and fall lawyers at Montlick and Associates, have been aggressively pursuing the best interests of Georgia injury victims for over 27 years. We work hard for our clients as part of our ongoing goal to be the top personal injury law firm in Georgia.

Georgia law requires certain facts to be established to prevail in a slip and fall case. The person causing your injury must have owed you a duty, breached that duty, and caused you injury. The key is that the accident victim must establish that the injury resulted from the other person's conduct. Georgia's comparative negligence law provides that if your own negligence or carelessness contributed to your injury, the compensation you receive will be reduced in proportion to your fault. If you were less than 50 percent at fault for your injury, you may still claim reduced damages, but if you were more than 50 percent at fault, you receive nothing.

In a case like Samuel Freeman's, his alcohol consumption prior to the accident made him liable to a certain extent for the accident. Freeman argued that he fell through a vinyl curtain down the stairs leading to a service area of the bar. The defense pointed out that had Freeman been sober, he arguably would have seen that there was nothing behind the curtain and would not have tried to lean against it. Freeman's own negligence in terms of his alcohol consumption and lack of awareness of his surroundings would have made him comparatively negligent under Georgia law. All Georgia residents need to be aware that they are expected to exercise reasonable judgment in avoiding hazardous situations.

Another common challenge in Georgia slip and fall cases is a lack of evidence regarding the accident. It is very easy to claim that someone else's negligence caused an injury, but it can be difficult to prove. The attorneys for Freeman’s estate claimed that he fell down the stairs when he attempted to lean against the vinyl curtain at the top of the stairs. Forensics experts for the defense argued that Freeman had been ascending the stairs from the basement when he fell, which would have meant he was trespassing and lowered the duty of care owed to Freeman. However, pub employees testified that patrons were routinely allowed near the stairs. Although this suggests that Freeman may not have been trespassing, it also raises the question as to why others had not fallen down the stairs before Freeman’s accident. It is easy to prove that an injury occurred in a slip and fall accident, but absent witnesses or visual documentation establishing how or why it occurred can be difficult.

Despite the evidence of an accident and a plausible theory that it was the pub's negligence that caused it, Freeman's estate lost the personal injury lawsuit. However, they did win on a consumer protection claim that will rarely be applicable in most slip and fall cases. Not every personal injury case will have clear proof that the potentially liable party is the only responsible party. While Samuel Freeman's fatal fall caused his death, his case was not strong because of the lack of witnesses and his own negligence (i.e. intoxication). Proof of injury alone is not enough to prevail in a Georgia slip and fall or to receive a full measure of damages.

Our experienced Georgia slip and fall attorneys will carefully investigate your accident for physical evidence and witness testimony. We will use the evidence we uncover to develop the best strategy for your slip and fall claim. We will also evaluate any comparative negligence issues. Our goal is to develop an effective strategy in your slip and fall case so that we can obtain the best possible outcome on your behalf. Montlick and Associates is available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.