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Birmingham Slip-and-Fall Claims Require Evidence of Negligence

Mar 20, 2014 - Premises Liability by

One of the more common types of injuries that people sustain is a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall.
However, Birmingham personal injury lawyers recognize that in order to have a valid premise liability claim against the property owner for such an incident, plaintiffs have to show there was some degree of negligence. This is a several-step process. It involves establishing that:

  1. The property owner had a duty of care to you;
  2. The property owner breached that duty of care to you;
  3. As a result of this negligence, you sustained injuries for which you deserve compensation.

A lot of this is going to depend on your relationship to the property owner, the type of hazard that resulted in the fall and whether you in any way contributed to the fall with reckless or negligent action.

Each case is going to be different. In those situations where a person has sustained serious injury as a result of a slip-and-fall, it is important to seek legal counsel immediately. Never assume you don’t have a case. Consider that in law, nothing is absolute. Even if one court turns down your claim, it may be revived upon appeal.

This is what happened in the recent case of Austin v. Clark, reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court. Here, the claim arose when a woman was leaving a graduation ceremony at a local high school.

The claimant alleges that she was on school district property when she stepped off the sidewalk and into a roadway. At that moment, her leg became stuck in an opening on the curb where the water drains from the roadway. She fell onto the pavement and sustained serious injuries. She alleged that the defendants – the superintendent, the assistant superintendent of facilities, the high school principal, and the schools’ director of maintenance – were negligent in inspecting, maintaining and repairing the portion of the sidewalk where she fell.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, asserting these particular claims were barred by the doctrine of official immunity. In Alabama, this rule is called the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and it essentially holds that government entities can’t be held liable in tort cases, with certain exceptions.

Here, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, and that decision was upheld by the appellate court. However, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was a dispute of fact as to whether the allegedly negligent acts of the public officer or employee were ministerial (in which case he or she would be liable) or discretionary (in which case he or she would not be held liable).

The court didn’t determine whether the plaintiff was right, only that there was evidence that she could be, and therefore the case should be allowed to proceed to trial.

Additional Resources:

Austin v. Clark, March 10, 2014, Georgia Supreme Court

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