No Duty to Render Aid to Injured or Ill Patron in Georgia Lodging Establishment
The issue of legal duty is one that is a foreign concept to many who suffer serious injury or wrongful death in Georgia. Many presume that if a person is in physical danger and another person could render aid with little or no risk that the law must impose a requirement to render assistance.
In reality, a person does not necessarily have a legal duty to render aid to someone in danger. While one may have a moral duty to render aid when it can be done with negligible cost to the rescuer, this does not necessarily mean a legal duty will exist. A recent graphic example of the importance of the concept of a “legal duty of care” is provided by a recent case decided by Georgia’s highest court.
In the case of Rasnick v. Krishna Hospitality, Inc., the Georgia Supreme Court considered the issue of whether a motel had a duty to comply with a wife’s requests to check on or render aid to her husband who she believed was suffering from illness or injury. The wife’s wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the wife had repeatedly called the motel the night before her husband’s body was discovered to inform the hotel that she believed her husband needed medical aid. She indicated that he regularly called after work and had left his work site several hours before. The wife also told the motel that she had called repeatedly and been unable to reach him. The motel was informed that the motel patron had a series of severe medical issues and that the wife was sure he needed medical assistance. The motel refused to check on the woman’s husband despite her repeated requests. It later turned out that the husband had died and would have survived had the motel checked on her husband when asked.
The Court pointed out that even the realization that some action is necessary for another's aid or protection does not, in and of itself, impose a duty to render such aid. The court further observed that Georgia tort law does not impose a duty to rescue or render aid for peril that is not caused by the rescuer. The court observed that the duty of a motel to its residents involves the well-settled principle that innkeepers have the duty to exercise ordinary care to provide their guests with premises that are reasonably safe for the guests' use and occupancy under Georgia premises liability law.
The court distinguished a medical condition not caused by conditions at the motel from a premise defect or other hazard posed by the condition of the property. The court reasoned that the danger was not caused by a dangerous condition like a smoke-filled room but a problem stemming from a medical condition unrelated to and not caused by the motel which was not internal to the premises but rather internal to the guest.
While a majority of other states have imposed a duty to aid if there is reason to believe a patron is ill or injured, the Georgia Supreme Court viewed this as impractical because it would be difficult for an innkeeper to determine when the duty would be triggered and to what extent the innkeeper would have to inquire. The Court expressed concerns about whether the inquiry that triggered the duty to investigate could only be triggered by a family member or might also be triggered by a friend or colleague. The Court viewed this as creating issues in protecting a patron’s privacy.
The Court did distinguish a situation where personnel at the motel have specific firsthand knowledge that a patron is in danger and suggested that a duty to aid might exist in that situation. However, the Court rejected the notion that the motel could be liable where they merely had an inquiry from someone who knew the guest rather than firsthand knowledge that the patron needed aid.
Liability for negligence that results in injury or wrongful death requires that the wrongdoer owe a duty to the Georgia personal injury victim. Under Georgia premises liability law, unsafe conditions on the premises of a business like a motel may create a duty for which liability may be imposed. If you or someone you love has been injured by a dangerous condition on the premises of a Georgia business, the experienced Atlanta premises liability lawyers at Montlick and Associates have been representing those injured by hazardous conditions on properties in Georgia since 1984.
Our Georgia premises liability lawyers are 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.