Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The true ground of liability is the proprietor's superior knowledge of the perilous instrumentality and the danger therefrom to persons going upon the property. It is when the perilous instrumentality is known to the owner or occupant and not known to the person injured that a recovery is permitted. One who is familiar with the premises cannot rely for recovery upon the negligence of the defendant in failing to correct a patent defect where such party had equal means with the defendant of discovering it or equal knowledge of its existence. However, the trial court can conclude as a matter of law that the facts do or do not show negligence on the part of the defendant or the plaintiff only where the evidence is plain, palpable and undisputable.
Gwyneth Williams was house-sitting for her daughter and son-in-law at The Landings, a planned residential development off the Georgia coast. Before The Landings was developed, the land within and surrounding its boundaries was largely marsh, where indigenous alligators lived and thrived. In order to develop the property, The Landings entities installed a lagoon system which allowed enough drainage to create an area suitable for a residential development. Williams was attacked and killed by an alligator. Plaintiffs filed suit against defendant, The Landings, on the basis of premises liability. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed, finding that a question of fact remained as to whether the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to protect Williams from being attacked and killed by an alligator in the planned residential community.
Under the circumstances, should the trial court have granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment?
The supreme court held that the trial court should have granted the owners' motions for summary judgment because the guest had equal knowledge of the threat of alligators within the community. Prior to the attack, the guest was aware that the property was inhabited by alligators. Her son-in-law testified that on at least one occasion, he was driving with the guest on property in the planned residential community when he stopped the car to allow the guest to look at an alligator. He also testified that the guest was, in fact, aware that there were alligators in the lagoons at the community. The record showed that the guest knew that the wild alligators were dangerous, saying herself that she would not want to be anywhere near them. Nonetheless, the guest chose to go for a walk at night near a lagoon in a community in which she knew wild alligators were present.