The Georgia Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that has clarified the liability of property owners for serious injuries sustained by invitees to their property. About ten years ago, a man was departing Cobb County Six Flags Over Georgia when he was severely beaten. His injuries resulted in permanent brain damage. A jury awarded the victim $35 million in damages, but the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the damage award was not apportioned properly between the defendants and sent it back to the trial court for a new trial. This ruling was appealed and the case went to the Georgia Supreme Court. The high court’s decision held that Six Flags could be held liable for the injuries and that the apportionment of damages various defendants will pay did not require a full retrial of the case.
The case clarifies certain aspects of Georgia law with regard to property owner liability. The victim in this case was an invitee under Georgia law. Official Code of Georgia section 53-3-1 states that when an owner or occupier of land, effectively invites others on the premises for a lawful purpose, the property owner is liable for damages to those harmed by the owner’s “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In this case, the plaintiff was brutally beaten by some seasonal employees and others who planned an attack on him as he left the park and waited for a bus.