BARNES, P. J., MERCIER and BROWN, JJ.
Barnes, Presiding Judge.
Dickerson was injured when she tripped and fell down brick
stairs in Charles Brown's backyard. Dickerson sued Brown,
alleging that she had tripped on an extension cord on the
stairs and that he was liable for her injuries. Brown moved
for summary judgment, contending that Dickerson was a
licensee and had failed to come forward with any evidence of
willful or wanton conduct. The trial court denied Brown's
motion but granted him a certificate of immediate review.
Following the grant of his application for interlocutory
appeal, Brown appeals, contending that the trial court erred
in denying his motion for summary judgment. Because there was
no evidence that Brown placed the extension cord on the
stairs or knew or had reason to know that the cord was there,
the trial court erred in denying his motion for summary
judgment, and we therefore reverse.
judgment is appropriate if the pleadings and evidence
"show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." OCGA § 9-11-56 (c). A defendant can
succeed on summary judgment
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 [the] plaintiff's case. If
there is no evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue as
to any essential element of [the] plaintiff's claim, that
claim tumbles like a house of cards. All of the other
disputes of fact are rendered immaterial.
Lau's Corp. v. Haskins, 261 Ga. 491, 491 (405
S.E.2d 474) (1991). "On appeal from the grant or denial
of summary judgment, we conduct a de novo review, with all
reasonable inferences construed in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party." (Punctuation and footnote
omitted.) Smith v. Found, 343 Ga.App. 816, 817 (806
S.E.2d 287) (2017).
viewed, the record reflects that on the date of the incident,
Brown allowed his friend, Janice Rogers, to have a birthday
party at his residence. Brown knew that Rogers wanted to sit
outside on the back porch near his pool and listen to music
with her friends. Brown's backyard was tiered and
included a set of brick stairs. Brown had owned the house for
approximately 20 years, and the stairs were there when he
purchased the residence.
other guests, Rogers invited her friend, Dickerson, to her
birthday party. When Dickerson arrived at Brown's
residence for the party, the weather was good and it was dark
outside. Dickerson took a path to the back of Brown's
house and came to the brick stairs that would lead her to the
pool area. According to Dickerson, although there were lights
outside the house, the lighting conditions near the outside
stairway were dim. As Dickerson descended the stairs, she
look straight ahead and never looked down. Dickerson felt
something hit her foot on one of the steps, causing her to
trip and fall to the ground. As she was being carried into
Brown's house after the fall by other partygoers,
Dickerson looked back at the stairs and saw an orange
extension cord draped over three or four stairs in the area
where she tripped. In her deposition, Dickerson testified
that she did not see the extension cord before her fall and
did not know who put the cord out or how long it had been
there before she descended the stairway. She testified that
the extension cord did not blend into the stairs but was
obscured by the dim lighting.
on the day of the party, Brown had been doing yard work in
his backyard with another person whom he had hired to help.
Brown testified in his deposition that he used yard equipment
that day, but that all of his equipment was gasoline
operated, that he did not use an extension cord for the work,
and that he did not place, leave, or see a cord on the stairs
that day. Brown further testified that he departed from his
residence before the party to run errands and did not return
until after Dickerson had fallen. According to Brown, he
walked through his backyard after he completed his yard work
to make sure that everything was picked up, and when he left
the property to run errands, no cord was present on the
stairway. Brown testified that he owns a couple of orange
extension cords but did not recall having ever placed one on
the outside stairs since he moved into the house.
testified that between five and ten guests were at his house
on the night of the party. Dickerson testified that after she
fell and was carried into Brown's residence, she noticed
that there were "a lot of people in the house."
undisputedly was a social guest on Brown's property and
thus was a licensee. See Thompson v. Oursler, 318
Ga.App. 377, 378 (733 S.E.2d 359) (2012) ("Georgia has
adopted the rule that a social guest is not an invitee but is
a licensee.") (citation and punctuation omitted). Under
Georgia premises liability law, the general rule is that
"the duty owed to an invitee is greater than that owed
to a licensee." Jarrell v. JDC & Assoc.,
296 Ga.App. 523, 525 (675 S.E.2d 278) (2009). A property
owner owes a duty to invitees to exercise ordinary care to
keep the premises and approaches "in a reasonably safe
condition." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Boyd v. Big Lots Stores, 347 Ga.App. 140,
141 (1) (817 S.E.2d 698) (2018). See OCGA § 51-3-1. A
property owner owes a more narrow duty to licensees not to
injure them willfully or wantonly. OCGA § 51-3-2 (b);
Van v. Kong, 344 Ga.App. 754, 755 (811 S.E.2d 474)
(2018). Willful misconduct "is based on an actual
intention to do harm or inflict injury," and wanton
misconduct "has been described as that which is so
reckless or so charged with indifference to the consequences
as to be the equivalent in spirit to actual intent."
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Ga. Dept. of
Transp. v. Strickland, 279 Ga.App. 753, 754 (1)
(632 S.E.2d 416) (2006).
[i]t is also usually wilful or wanton not to exercise
ordinary care to prevent injuring a person who is actually
known to be or may reasonably be expected to be, within range
of a dangerous act being done or a hidden peril on one's
premises. In other words, a possessor of land is subject to
liability for physical harm caused to licensees by a
condition on the land if, but only if, (a) the
possessor knows or has reason to know of the condition and
should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm
to such licensees, and should expect that they will not
discover or realize the danger, and (b) he fails to exercise
reasonable care to make the condition safe, or to warn the
licensees of the condition and the risk involved, and (c) the
licensees do not know or have reason to know of the condition
and the risk involved. Where a licensee has equal knowledge
of the dangerous condition or the risks involved, there is no
wilful or wanton action on the part of the owner and there is
no liability to the licensee.
(Citations and punctuation omitted; emphasis supplied.)
Manners v. 5 Star Lodge & Stables, 347 Ga.App.
738, 741 (3) (820 S.E.2d 754) (2018). See Aldridge v.
Tillman, 237 Ga.App. 600, 603 (1) (516 S.E.2d 303)
(1999); Wade v. Mitchell, 206 Ga.App. 265, 267 (2)
(c) (424 S.E.2d 810) (1992). "Therefore, the danger must
be known and foreseen by the property owner before a duty to
protect exists." Aldridge, 237 Ga.App. at 603
(1). See Thompson v. Oursler, 318 Ga.App. 377, 378
(733 S.E.2d 359) (2012) (licensee must come forward ...