DILLARD, C. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.
he was injured by a fall from an allegedly defective ladder
that he claims was provided to his employer by Lakeshore
Contracting, LLC ("Lakeshore"), Bernardo
Lopez-Hernandez filed suit against Lakeshore in Crisp County
Superior Court, seeking to recover for his injuries.
Lakeshore now appeals from the trial court's denial of
its motion for summary judgment, arguing that Lopez-Hernandez
failed to come forward with any evidence to create a jury
question on the issue of Lakeshore's liability.
Specifically, Lakeshore contends that Lopez-Hernandez failed
to come forward with any evidence showing either that
Lakeshore had actual or constructive knowledge of the
ladder's allegedly defective condition or that Lakeshore
owed Lopez-Hernandez any duty to provide him with a
"safe working environment." Lakeshore further
contends that the undisputed evidence shows that
Lopez-Hernandez failed to exercise ordinary care for his own
safety. For reasons explained more fully below, we agree with
Lakeshore that Lopez-Hernandez failed to come forward with
any evidence that Lakeshore had actual or constructive
knowledge of the ladder's alleged defect. Accordingly, we
reverse the trial court's order and remand for entry of
judgment in favor of Lakeshore.
appeal from the grant or denial of a motion for summary
judgment, we review the record de novo, construing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant.
Samuels v. CBOCS, Inc., 319 Ga.App. 421, 422 (742
S.E.2d 141) (2012). And when conducting that review, we bear
in mind that to prevail on a motion for summary judgment:
the moving party must show that there is no genuine dispute
as to a specific material fact and that this specific fact is
enough, regardless of any other facts in the case, to entitle
the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. When a
defendant moves for summary judgment as to an element of the
case for which the plaintiff, and not the defendant, will
bear the burden of proof at trial the defendant may show that
[it] is entitled to summary judgment either by affirmatively
disproving that element of the case or by pointing to an
absence of evidence in the record by which the plaintiff
might carry the burden to prove that element. And if the
defendant does so, the plaintiff cannot rest on his
pleadings, but rather must point to specific evidence giving
rise to a triable issue.
Beale v. O'Shea, 319 Ga.App. 1, 2 (735 S.E.2d
29) (2012) (citation and punctuation omitted).
in the light most favorable to Lopez-Hernandez, as the
non-movant, the record shows that Lakeshore is a general
contracting company that builds and remodels both residential
and light commercial properties. Lakeshore's sole owner
is Greg Walker, and the company has no employees other than
Walker. Thus, Walker subcontracts most of the jobs that
Lakeshore is hired to perform. In May 2016, Quality
Solutions, Inc. hired Lakeshore to repair a damaged wall at a
Verizon Wireless store in Newnan. Lakeshore subcontracted the
job to Danny Montana, and Montana, in turn, hired
Lopez-Hernandez and Wilson Coca to assist him with the
and Coca each testified at their respective
depositions that before traveling to Newnan, the two
of them, together with Montana, stopped by Walker's
workshop in Cordele to pick up materials needed for the job.
According to both men, Walker loaded items onto a trailer
attached to Montana's truck, including the ladder at
issue. Lopez-Hernandez further testified that there were no
other ladders on the trailer. The men then drove with the
ladder on the trailer for approximately three hours to reach
the job site, traveling from Cordele to Newnan.
Coca, and Lopez-Hernandez began work at the Verizon store at
approximately 10:00 p. m., after the store had closed. The
men brought the ladder into the store from the trailer, and
both Coca and Montana used the ladder without incident,
although neither man stepped above the second rung. Coca
testified that he was the first person to use the ladder and
when he did so, he made sure that the braces on either side
were locked. He also walked around the ladder to make sure it
looked safe before he climbed it. Although the ladder
appeared somewhat old and somewhat worn out, Coca did not see
that it was broken or otherwise looked unsafe.
approximately 1:00 a. m., Lopez-Hernandez moved the
already-open ladder to his work area and began to ascend the
same. As he neared the top of the ladder, one of the rungs
apparently broke or gave way, and Lopez-Hernandez fell from
the ladder head first, suffering several injuries, including
a neck injury that required surgery. The ladder fell with
Lopez-Hernandez, landing on its side. At his deposition,
Lopez-Hernandez testified as to his belief that the rung on
which he attempted to place his foot when he fell was already
broken explaining that he "didn't feel that I had
put any weight on it" before the fall. Lopez-Hernandez
acknowledged, however, that he did not perform even a cursory
inspection of the ladder, even though nothing prevented him
from doing so. Instead, despite the ladder's allegedly
old and worn appearance, Lopez-Hernandez simply assumed that
the ladder was in good condition and was safe to use.
the accident, Lopez-Hernandez filed the current lawsuit
against Lakeshore, alleging that Lakeshore provided Montana
and his workers the ladder at issue to use during the course
of the job at the Verizon store. Lopez-Hernandez further
asserted that Lakeshore had actual or constructive knowledge
of the ladder's defective condition and that the company
was negligent in failing to inspect and maintain the ladder.
the close of discovery, Lakeshore moved for summary judgment,
asserting that Lopez-Hernandez had failed to come forward
with any evidence of Lakeshore's liability. The trial court
denied the motion, finding that although no evidence showed
that Lakeshore had actual knowledge of the ladder's
defect, a genuine issue of material fact existed with respect
to whether Lakeshore "in the exercise of ordinary care
should have inspected the ladder or cautioned Lopez-Hernandez
to inspect the ladder before using [it.]" Additionally,
the trial court found a disputed issue of material fact
existed on the question of whether Lakeshore had a "duty
to provide a safe work environment" to Lopez-Hernandez.
The trial court certified its order for immediate review, and
we granted Lakeshore's application for an interlocutory
appeal. This appeal followed.
"[T]o recover for injuries caused by another's
negligence, a plaintiff must show four elements: a duty, a
breach of that duty, causation and damages."
Goldstein, Garber & Salama v. J. B., 300 Ga.
840, 841 (1) (797 S.E.2d 87) (2017) (citation and punctuation
omitted). Here, Lakeshore contends that Lopez-Hernandez
failed to come forward with any evidence that the company
breached any duty it owed him. Specifically, Lakeshore
asserts that Lopez-Hernandez produced no evidence showing
that Lakeshore knew, or should have known, that the ladder
was somehow defective. We agree.
the law of master and servant, an employer is required to use
ordinary care to provide his employee with tools that are in
good condition and reasonably suited to the use for which
they are intended. Williams v. Garrbutt Lumber Co.,
132 Ga. 221, 224 (64 SE 65) (1909). See also A. F. King
& Son v. Simmons, 107 Ga.App. 628, 629-630 (1) (131
S.E.2d 214) (1963). The employer must also use ordinary care
in inspecting such tools to ensure they are "in proper
condition for use." Williams, 132 Ga. at 224.
Moreover, the employer has a duty to warn an employee of any
latent defects in the supplied tools of which the employer
is, or should be, aware. Id. at 231-232. See also
OCGA § 34-7-20. The employee, however, has a reciprocal
duty to exercise care for his own safety, and he cannot
recover for his injuries resulting from a ...