A Georgia theme park is asking for an appellate court to toss a $35 million premises liability verdict won by a man who was savagely beaten by gang members at a bus stop outside the entrance of the park.
Lawyers for the park say the verdict is in contrast with basic principles of premises liability law because it stemmed from a crime that occurred off park property and was not foreseeable.
Plaintiff attorneys, meanwhile, argued the area was high-crime, similar incidents previously happened in and around the park and park officials failed to appropriately address that danger. They assert – and trial jury had agreed – the park was responsible to keep its property and the roadway leading up to it safe.
In the case of Six Flags Over Georgia v. Martin, security at the park had grappled with gang violence at the park leading up to the incident. On the day of the attack, a group of attackers made threatening remarks to two different families inside the park. Although security got involved, none of those who had made the threats were ejected from the park.
Soon after, that same group followed plaintiff and his friends from the park to a nearby bus stop, where plaintiff was “jumped.” One of the attackers wore brass knuckles during the attack. As a result of that beating, plaintiff fell into a coma and now suffers permanent brain damage requiring a lifetime of care.
As it turned out, those attackers were employees of the park. Plaintiff initially sought to hold the park responsible based on the theory it had negligently hired and supervised its employees. However, trial court rejected those assertions before the case went to trial, solely on the premises liability claim.
Premises liability lawsuits allow property owners to be held liable in some cases for third-party, criminal attacks in situations where property owner was aware of the possibility of danger, had a duty to take preventative action and failed in that duty.
This case was interesting for the fact the park did not own the property on which the attack occurred. In fact, that was owned by a parking company, which settled out-of-court with plaintiff prior to trial. There are some situations in which property owners can be held liable for actions that occur of site. In this case, plaintiff argued the park did have control over the site because it cut the grass in the area, picked up trash and even provided security patrols. There was also a sign along the road indicating it was not open to thru traffic, but was instead a theme park entrance way.
Defense argued voluntary maintenance of portions of that property by defendant wasn’t enough to establish the kind of “control” necessary to prove liability in this case.
Plaintiffs pointed out case law supports liability of property owners for incidents that occur not only on-site but on the approach to the site, as this location was. In the year prior to this attack, a shooting had occurred at that same location.
Jurors in 2013 awarded plaintiff $35 million in damages, assigning just 8 percent of comparative fault to the attackers, and the rest to the theme park.
Georgia appeals court has not yet issued a decision.
Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
Six Flags Fights $35M Verdict, Says Site of Attack Wasn’t Its Responsibility, July 2015, By Alyson Palmer, Daily Report
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Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc. – Slip-and-Fall at Nightclub, July 4, 2015, Rock Hill Injury Lawyer Blog