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A School’s Responsibility to Prevent Slip and Fall Accidents

slip-and-fall-school

“One who owns or occupies land and by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premise for any lawful purpose … is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. While not an insurer of the invitee’s safety, the owner/occupier is required to exercise ordinary care to protect the invitee from unreasonable risks of harm.”

This was a quote from the Georgia Supreme Court’s opinion in the case Robinson v. Kroger, and it continued to be relevant in the recent victory of a student in a case titled, Duff v. Board of Regents.

Mollie Duff is a former Georgia Perimeter College student whose college experience was cut short after an unfortunate slip and fall accident. Duff was leaving class when she slipped and fell on water that was carried in from the rain outside of the building. The college tried to debate that the water which Duff slipped in could not be classified as a hazardous condition. DeKalb County State Court Judge Janis Gordon initially tossed the case, but the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed Gordon’s decision.

Duff’s attorneys argued that the water tracked in by students was a hazardous condition beyond a typical puddle of water like you might find on the sidewalk. They used the location of Duff’s fall and the standing water as evidence that, even though rainwater caused the fall, it was deep inside the building where no one would know to be cautious of it. Duff was leaving a classroom where no windows were present when the accident occurred, so she had no idea that it was even raining outside. She did not even know the floor was wet until after the fall when she felt the water on the denim skirt she wore that day. This was the key point made in Duff’s win.

Duff’s fall led to many challenges. She was 23 years old at the time and only two semesters away from graduation. As a result of her fall, she experienced various complications with walking, and had to have a spinal simulator surgically implanted in order to help control the pain. The medical bills for these issues have run into the $600,000 range and she was unable to complete her degree.

A School’s Responsibility

As people of all ages return to school, it is important that you understand the conditions necessary for a school to be held liable for the personal injury of you or your child:

  1. The injury or accident must have occurred during school hours.
  2. The injury must be considered “foreseeable.” This means that the school failed to take preventative action to a hazardous situation that they were made aware of prior to the incident.
  3. The employees at the school must have acted recklessly in the situation, whether they actually caused the harm or took the wrong measures when the harm was done.

These three aspects are important in any case regarding premises liability in a school, particularly if it is a public school. It is also important to note that many schools are granted immunity based on different circumstances. This can make the trial hard fought, and it is not something you should have to deal with alone. Call Hensley Legal Group today, or contact us online to set up a free consultation.