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Strauss v. City of Lilburn

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 24, 2014

STRAUSS
v.
CITY OF LILBURN

Trip and fall. Gwinnett State Court. Before Judge Cook, Senior Judge.

Judgment reversed.

Wood, Hernacki & Evans, Katherine V. Hernacki, for appellant.

Lokey, Mobley & Doyle, G. Melton Mobley, Dawn N. Pettigrew, for appellee.

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

OPINION

Page 50

McMillian, Judge.

Carole M. Strauss appeals the summary judgment granted to the City of Lilburn in this " trip and fall" action, asserting that genuine issues of material fact exist with respect to her knowledge of the specific hazard causing her fall. For the reasons set forth below, we agree and reverse the trial court's grant of summary judgment.

Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issues of material fact remain and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We review the grant of summary judgment de novo, construing the evidence and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. E.g., McLemore v. Genuine Parts Co., 313 Ga.App. 641 (722 S.E.2d 366) (2012). So viewed, the record shows that on June 1, 2010, Strauss drove to downtown Lilburn (the " City" ) with two visiting relatives to eat lunch at the Blue Rooster Café (the " Café " ). At the time, the Café was located along a sidewalk owned bye the City at 107 Main Street. In 2007, the City contracted with a third party to renovate the sidewalk area on Main Street.[1] Following the renovation, the upper area of the sidewalk, closest to the Café, was separated from the lower area toward the street, but was connected by a single-step riser; brick columns flanked the riser. Both the upper and lower areas of the sidewalk are constructed of the same, light-colored concrete.

Although Strauss had previously been to the Café, she testified that she usually parked in a lot beside the Café and reached the sidewalk through that parking lot.[2] However, on this occasion, she parked on the street across from the Café . She and her companions then crossed the street and approached the single-step riser connecting the lower sidewalk to the upper sidewalk where the Café 's entrance was located. However, they could not proceed that way because there were people blocking that portion of the sidewalk. Instead, they went around to the right and entered the upper sidewalk area from the end near the parking lot.

Page 51

After finishing their lunch at approximately 2:00 p.m., they left the Café, and Strauss made her way toward the single-step riser to cross the street to return to her car. Strauss explained at her [329 Ga.App. 362] deposition:

I knew I was coming up to the steps, so I paid attention. I just didn't see the step there. ... The next thing, I just sort of -- I was going -- I just shot out like that, and my head was going towards the car that was parked there, and I thought I was going to hit the car head-on. And then I just splatted on the sidewalk.

Strauss conceded that there was nothing slick or anything else that caused her to trip, and the weather was sunny and bright that day. Strauss could not remember if she had ever walked down that step on her previous visits, but maintained that " historically" she " tried to park in that parking lot ... [o]n the side." As a result of her fall, Strauss sustained significant injuries ...


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