MCFADDEN, P. J., BRANCH and BETHEL, JJ.
MCFADDEN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
appeal challenges the grant of summary judgment to the
defendant in a slip-and-fall case. Because there exist
genuine issues of material fact about the defendant's
knowledge of the hazard and the plaintiff's lack of such
knowledge, we reverse the grant of summary judgment.
Facts and procedural posture.
judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Duff v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. System of
Ga., 341 Ga.App. 458 (800 S.E.2d 640) (2017) (citation
omitted). A defendant moving for summary judgment may prevail
"by showing the court that the documents, affidavits,
depositions and other evidence in the record reveal that
there is no evidence sufficient to create a jury issue on at
least one essential element of plaintiff's case."
Season All Flower Shop v. Rorie, 323 Ga.App. 529-530
(746 S.E.2d 634) (2013) (citation omitted). "A de novo
standard of review applies to an appeal from a grant of
summary judgment, and we view the evidence, and all
reasonable conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in the
light most favorable to the nonmovant." Smith v.
Tenet HealthSystem Spalding, 327 Ga.App. 878 (761 S.E.2d
409) (2014) (citation omitted).
viewed, the evidence shows that on July 11, 2015, Emma
Stewart attended her mother's funeral at the Piney Grove
Missionary Baptist Church in Adel, Georgia. After the
service, Stewart began to leave through the front door of the
fellowship hall where she had previously entered. But church
deacon Alvin Martin told Stewart not to use that door and
instead directed her to go out a back door that exited
through the church. Stewart followed Martin's directions
and went through the back door, where she encountered two
stairs leading down to a concrete floor. Stewart had never
used the stairs before and as she stepped down she lost her
balance, missed the second stair, and fell to the floor.
Stewart suffered injuries in the fall, including a broken
leg. At her deposition, Stewart testified that when she
stepped on the first stair she noticed that the stairs were
"so steep" and "so narrow" that she could
not see the second stair. She also deposed that the stairs
were uneven and that as she began to fall she looked for a
handrail to steady herself, but there was nothing to hold on
to beside the stairs.
acknowledged at his deposition that prior to Stewart's
fall he was aware that there was an area of the stairs that
was uneven, which had caused him concern that someone might
fall on the stairs. He testified that the lack of handrails,
however, had not given him any concern. Martin further
deposed that a few minutes before Stewart's fall, he
learned that another woman had also fallen earlier that day.
Brown is the pastor of, and does business as, Piney Grove
Missionary Baptist Church. At his deposition, Brown testified
that before Stewart's fall there had been discussions in
the church about installing a handrail to improve the safety
of the stairs. Brown also deposed that he and Martin had
discussed the possibility that the narrowness of the steps
could have caused Stewart's fall because they were not
wide enough for a foot to step on them. Brown conceded that
the way in which the church maintained the steps could have
filed a complaint against Brown, doing business as the
church, seeking damages for her injuries caused by the fall.
Brown answered and moved for summary judgment, claiming that
he had no knowledge of any hazard and that Stewart had failed
to exercise ordinary care for her own safety. The trial court
granted the motion. Stewart appeals from that grant of
duty of an owner or occupier of land to an invitee is set
forth in OCGA § 51-3-1, which provides: "Where an
owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation,
induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any
lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for
injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in
keeping the premises and approaches safe." In
Robinson v. Kroger Co., 268 Ga. 735 (493
S.E.2d 403) (1997), our Supreme Court further explained:
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 of which
the owner/occupier has superior knowledge. The owner/occupier
owes persons invited to enter the premises a duty of ordinary
care to have the premises in a reasonably safe condition and
not to expose the invitees to unreasonable risk or to lead
them into a dangerous trap. The owner/occupier is not
required to warrant the safety of all persons from all
things, but to exercise the diligence toward making the
premises safe that a good business person is accustomed to
use in such matters. This includes inspecting the premises to
discover possible dangerous conditions of which the
owner/occupier does not have actual knowledge, and taking
reasonable precautions to protect invitees from dangers
foreseeable from the arrangement or use of the premises.
Id. at 740 (1) (citations omitted). In
Robinson, the Supreme Court also provided that
"in order to recover for injuries sustained in a
slip-and-fall action, an invitee must prove (1) that the
defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard;
and (2) that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard
despite the exercise of ordinary care due to actions or
conditions within the control of the owner/occupier."
Id. at 748-749 (2) (b).