What Does the Superior Knowledge Standard Mean in Slip and Fall Cases?

When a Georgia man volunteered to work on the roof of his church’s new building, he didn’t know it would result in a serious injury. After falling through a skylight, the man sued but the church claimed it was not liable because it didn’t have any more awareness of the danger than the victim did when he went on the roof. The court case that followed demonstrates that not every victim is entitled to relief after being hurt due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property.

The victim sued but the court sided with the church, dismissing the case without a trial, and a state appeals court agreed. To win a premises liability case, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had, or should have had, superior knowledge of the hazard that caused the injury. Defendants often use this argument in slip and fall cases, claiming that a plaintiff using ordinary care would have been able to recognize the dangerous condition as well as, or better than, the defendant. Relying on this reasoning, property owners and other defendants frequently assert that they should not be required to pay damages associated with a victim’s injuries.

How does one prove that a slip and fall defendant has superior knowledge of a danger? One way is to show that the property owner or their employee was made aware of an otherwise unidentified hazard prior to when the injury took place. In the case at hand, the church avoided liability because the court held that anyone could identify the danger of working on the roof. However, had the accident been caused by a weakness in the structure that the church was made aware of during the property inspection, this likely would have constituted superior knowledge.

It isn’t necessary to prove that the property owner actually was aware of the dangerous condition on their premises. It is sufficient if they should have had superior knowledge of it, a legal concept called “constructive knowledge.” For example, the people in charge of a supermarket should be aware that something has been spilled in one of their aisles relatively quickly after the mishap occurs. In this case and others, a property owner that doesn’t inspect their property might be deemed to have constructive knowledge of any defects such an inspection could have revealed.

Developing an effective premises liability case requires a careful investigation by attorneys with a firm knowledge of the relevant Georgia law. At Jason & Bradley, LLC in Stone Mountain we have the experience and skill to uncover the truth. If you were injured in a slip and fall in the Atlanta metro area, you can call us at 404-297-9933 or contact us online to schedule a free attorney consultation.