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The Night the Snow Fell in Georgia


We are only a few weeks into 2018, and this winter is already one for the record books. The cold snap that started on New Year’s and that keeps re-visiting the East Coast has more than once left ice and snow as far south as Florida and Texas, with Georgia being right in the path of the wintery mix. Keeping warm, safe and dry has been a major challenge in the New Year.

Another major challenge is making sure that premises are secure for people; slip and fall accidents are all too likely in this messy winter weather. Georgia has no statutory laws regarding snow and ice removal, other than the fact that if snow is shoveled it cannot be placed in a public road, street or walkway. Therefore, slip and fall accidents due to snow and ice follow the law developed for overall premises liability.


Premises liability is based on negligence, so the basic approach is: (1) did the property owner have actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition that caused the injury; and (2) did the claimant lack knowledge of the hazardous condition despite the use of ordinary care? The “actual or constructive knowledge” component echoes the “knew or should have known” language often found in negligence actions; i.e. put simply, can it be said that a property owner knew or should have known that snow or ice caused the property to become hazardous?

The law pertaining to the liability of business owners for snow and ice removal sometimes referred to various theories: (1) the natural accumulation rule which held that a business owner had no responsibility to remove snow and ice since it was a naturally occurring condition that was not created by the business owner and was not a defective property condition; (2) the storm-in-progress rule held that removal only had to begin within a reasonable time after a storm had passed; and (3) the reasonable care rule, which stated that an owner must exercise reasonable care in addressing snow and ice.

In the 1997 case Robinson v. Kroger Co, the Georgia Supreme Court broke with years of precedent and held that an invitee is entitled to expect that the owner of the premises has exercised and will continue to exercise reasonable care to make the premises safe. Citing the Robinson case, the Georgia Court of Appeals in Dumas v. Tripps of North Carolina, Inc., went further and held that the “accumulation of naturally occurring ice does not negate an owner’s duty to exercise ordinary care in inspecting the premises.” With this holding, the Court made a slip and fall on naturally occurring conditions such as ice or snow no different from a slip and fall on a foreign substance.

Thus, Georgia courts have tacitly rejected the natural accumulation theory and reinforced the reasonable care standard. Property owners therefore have a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure that their premises are safe for invitees and licensees (and in rare cases, even for a trespasser). The duty of reasonable care can take the form of: signs warning of a hazardous condition; salting walkways and steps; removal of snow and ice; and even blocking off areas that are too hazardous for use.


If despite a property owner’s reasonable care and your own precautions, you fall and injure yourself, the following are some helpful tips on what to do at the scene of the accident:

  1. Take photos (with your cell phone or someone else’s) of your injury, of the area, and of the area immediately surrounding where you fell;
  2. Get the full names and telephone numbers of anyone who witnessed your fall; get the name and number of the property/business owner or manager or any staff on duty at the time;
  3. Collect any possible evidence, e.g. note the temperature at the time if you fell on ice/snow; ask for surveillance footage if there are cameras; look at/take photos of adjacent areas; etc.
  4. Call your attorney: Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm


If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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