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Ingles Mkts., Inc. v. Carroll

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 24, 2014

INGLES MARKETS, INC.
v.
CARROLL

Premises liability. Carroll State Court. Before Judge Sullivan.

Judgment reversed.

Mabry & McClelland, Walter B. McClelland, James W. Scarbrough, for appellant.

Witcher Law Firm, Jack F. Witcher, Daniel B. Greenfield, for appellee.

MCMILLIAN, Judge. Phipps, C. J., and Ellington, P. J., concur.

OPINION

Page 46

McMillian, Judge.

Deborah Ann Carroll filed suit against Ingles Markets, Inc. (" Ingles" ), alleging that Ingles was liable to her for injuries she received when a child ran into her and knocked her down while she was shopping at an Ingles store in Villa Rica, Georgia. Following discovery, Ingles filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. This interlocutory appeal followed. Because there is no evidence that Ingles had either actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard at issue, we reverse the trial court's denial of summary judgment to Ingles.

We review the denial of summary judgment de novo, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. See Whitfield v. Tequila Mexican Restaurant No. 1, Inc., 323 Ga.App. 801, 802 (2) (748 S.E.2d 281) (2013). So viewed, the record shows that on February 11, 2012, Carroll was grocery shopping at an Ingles store in Villa Rica, Georgia. Right before the incident, Carroll was exiting the cereal aisle and on her way to get milk. As she was walking, she saw, from the corner of her eye, a young

Page 47

boy coming toward her. She noticed that he was " walking fast." Carroll testified that the next thing she knew, he [329 Ga.App. 366] had run into her and knocked her to the ground.[1] The boy, who appeared to be around 11-13 years old, was carrying a bag of charcoal as he was coming out of an aisle that contained items such as plates, cups, and charcoals.

In her deposition, Carroll acknowledged that she had been visiting that particular Ingles approximately three times per week since it had opened and she had never seen any children running in the store. She always found the store to be well kept and clean, and the employees were always helpful. Although Carroll had " skipped around" the store on the day in question and was almost finished with her shopping at the time of her fall, she had not previously seen the boy.

Andy Lindgren, the Villa Rica store manager, testified that he personally walks around the entire store on a daily basis, multiple times per day. At a minimum, he does this at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Ingles also has a policy that requires one of the customer service managers to walk through the store every two hours and to maintain a " Store Sweep Log" of these inspections. During a " sweep," a manager will walk the store's entire perimeter to make sure that there are " no slip hazards, no trip hazards, no water on the floor, [and] nothing that would cause" any injuries. In addition, there are generally two to five stock clerks working in the main grocery area who are also instructed to keep a look out and clear any hazards on the floor at any time. The employees would also look for any children running up and down the aisles. Lindgren specifically instructs his employees that if they see a child running, they are to instruct the child's parent(s) to make sure the child stops running, and if the running continues, they should be asked to leave. He had never asked a customer to leave the store because of a child continuing to run after being warned and could only recall one other time when he had to ask a child to stop running in the store.

At the time of the incident, Lindgren was assisting with stocking in a back room of the store. He later happened upon one of the customer service managers completing an incident report with Carroll, the boy, and his parents. He had personally never seen the boy before and learned that none of his employees had seen the boy running before the fall. At his deposition, Lindgren identified the Store Sweep Log maintained in February 2012, which indicated that, on February 11, two of the store's customer service managers had performed [329 Ga.App. 367] ...


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