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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
W. T. GRANT COMPANY v. PHILLIPS.
43171.
Action for damages. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Bell.
EBERHARDT, Judge.
Where it appears on motion for summary judgment that plaintiff fell on steps that were well constructed, clean, and free of any foreign. substance, had handrails down each side with another in the middle, were well lighted and had abrasive or safety tread inserts inlaid in them, and plaintiff made no claim of defect in the steps beyond an assertion that there was a "slick spot" on them which caused her to fall, no negligence appeared on the part of the defendant and it was error to deny the motion.
Mrs. Sallie Mae Phillips seeks to recover damages of W. T. Grant Company for personal injuries alleged to have been sustained from a fall when she descended the steps of its store leading from the ground floor to the basement department of its store for the purpose of purchasing goods. She alleges that as she stepped from a landing (two steps above the basement floor) onto the first of the last two steps before reaching the basement floor she stepped "upon a slick place on the step which was not apparent or visible to her and which she could not have reasonable [sic] foreseen," whereupon her right foot slipped from under her, throwing her to the floor and bringing about an injury to her left knee, arm and shoulder. She also alleges that another lady had fallen at the same spot only a week earlier. Negligence is charged in the failure of the defendant to ascertain the condition of the steps and to remedy it so that it might safely be used, in failing to provide immediate assistance to her and procure transportation for her to the hospital, thus aggravating her injury. General demurrers to the petition were overruled.
and I walked to the hospital, where they sent me to the emergency room and put a bandage on my knee. No doctor saw me. After that I just doctored it myself, and afterwards Dr. Rawls treated me for my knee and a strained pelvis. When I started down the steps I took hold of the railing and held down. I was looking where I was going and I didn't see anything. My foot went forward, I slipped. . . I didn't notice any slickness on the other steps as I went down. . . I had a bag of popcorn in my arms--I had been eating it, but not then. I had the popcorn in my arms with my pocketbook. That was all I had. I was holding to the hand railing when I fell."
Depositions of Mrs. Vernedia Bozeman, assistant manager of the store, Mrs. Lillian Wheeler, a clerk in the store, Clara Clark, a clerk in the basement, and Elijah Clark, the janitor and cleaning man, were also obtained.
Mrs. Bozeman testified that she went to the basement right after the occurrence, saw Mrs. Phillips and learned that she had slipped on a step and fallen and that her shoe had come off when she fell. She looked at the steps where Mrs. Phillips had fallen and found them to be clean--rubbed her hand over the step and found nothing more than a little dust on it. The steps have a tread built into the tile that is darker than the rest of the step and is rougher so that one will not slip on it. Another woman, 74 years old, had fallen on the steps a week before, but that was because she missed a step--misstepped --not because of any defect in the steps or because of anything on them. She observed Mrs. Phillips' shoes, clothing, bundles, etc., for the purpose of making a report to the store management on it, and found that her shoes were "awful run down and the heels were over in the back . . . and were very loose." One of her shoes was off--it had come off when she fell. The steps are of regular width. The rough part of the tread is set in about two inches from the front.
Mrs. Wheeler testified that she was to the left of the steps when Mrs. Phillips fell--some 8 or 9 feet away, and that she immediately went to assist her. Mrs. Phillips was "grapping for her shoe that had fell off in her falling. She had kicked her shoe. It was loose and it was flat . . . it had slung off and she was reaching to get it." She looked at the steps and found them clean--nothing on them. There was plenty of light. There was no paper, water or other foreign substance on the steps. She was not looking at Mrs. Phillips when she fell but heard it and went right over. She had never known of any accidents on the steps other than the lady who misstepped and this one.
Clara Clark testified that she was in the basement, saw Mrs. Phillips fall. One of her shoes came off when she fell. She looked closely at the steps but saw nothing on them. There was no water, paper or other foreign substance on them. There was plenty of light.
Elijah Clark testified that it was his duty to clean and keep the floors and steps of the store, and that the steps were never waxed. He inspected the floors and steps many times every day--perhaps as often as 50 times a day--and removed anything that might be found on them. He swept them every morning. He came up after Mrs. Phillips fell, inspected the steps and found nothing on them. They were clean. The steps are of marble or terrazzo, and have a tread set into them to prevent slipping. They are about 15 years old, but not worn and are in good condition. The steps are cleaned every night after closing with a wet mop and Clorox in water, and are swept in the morning and kept free of trash all during the day.
Photographs of the steps were obtained, showing them to be of terrazzo tile with safety tread inserts and with handrails on each side and one running down the middle. They do not appear to be worn.
The defendant moved for a summary judgment, attaching the depositions and photographs.
Mrs. Phillips responded with an affidavit asserting that she had fallen because of a slick spot on the step and that this particular spot was unlike the other steps in that it was slick, and that the slick spot was the sole cause of her fall, and that she did not trip or fall through any fault of her own.
From a denial of the summary judgment, and from the overruling of its general demurrers, defendant appeals. The orders were entered August 24, 1967, prior to the effective date of the Civil Practice Act. See On Motion for Rehearing in Abercrombie v. Ledbetter-Johnson Co., 116 Ga. App. 376 (157 SE2d 493).
In Holloman v. Henry Grady Hotel Co., 42 Ga. App. 347 (156 SE 275) it was held that no cause of action arose from slipping and falling on marble steps which presented a slick, smooth polished surface on which to step. We can see no difference in marble and terrazzo tile as a material for steps. There is nothing in the texture of either to render them inherently dangerous, and both are in common use as building materials. As was pointed out in that case "there is no suggestion in the petition in this case that any foreign substance was deposited upon the steps to render them slick and dangerous." See also Watson v. McCrory Stores, 97 Ga. App. 516 (103 SE2d 648). And here, particularly in connection with the evidence presented on the motion for summary judgment, it appears both from the plaintiff and other witnesses who examined the steps immediately after Mrs. Phillips fell that there was no foreign substance on the steps, that they were clean, and in addition that the steps had safety or abrasive inserts in the treads. Photographs of the steps in the record indicate that they are well constructed, with abrasive or safety inserts, and with handrails on each side and one running down the middle, and are well lighted. Although Mrs. Phillips testified that the steps had no abrasive safety treads, the photographs wholly refute this.
Mrs. Phillips' only contention is that there was a "slick spot" on the step. No negligence on the part of the defendant appears. The physical facts here do not support her or bring this case within the ruling of Scott v. Rich's, Inc., 47 Ga. App. 548 (171 SE 201), Townley v. Rich's, Inc., 84 Ga. App. 772 (67 SE2d 403), or Belk Gallant Co. v. McCrary, 88 Ga. App. 829 (78 SE2d 198). Nor are the cases involving waxed and highly polished floors (Clayton v. Steve-Cathey, Inc., 105 Ga. App. 570 (125 SE2d 118)), or waxed and soapy steps (Burns v. Great A. & P. Tea Co., 105 Ga. App. 823 (125 SE2d 687)), or other foreign substances on the steps or floors (S. H. Kress & Co. v. Flanigan, 103 Ga. App. 301 (119 SE2d 32); Etheridge Motors, Inc. v. Haynie, 103 Ga. App. 676 (120 SE2d 317)), or rugs on polished floors (Martin v. Henson, 95 Ga. App. 715 (99 SE2d 251); Durrett v. Tunno, 113 Ga. App. 839 (149 SE2d 826)), and the like, relevant in this situation.
The motion for summary judgment should have been granted. Cf. Scott v. Gulf Oil Corp., 116 Ga. App. 391 (157 SE2d 526). This obviates any necessity for dealing with the ruling on the general demurrers.
Judgment reversed. Felton, C. J., and Hall, J., concur.
Shi & Raley, F. R. Raley, for appellee.
Anderson, Walker & Reichert, Albert P. Reichert, Jr., for appellant.
ARGUED NOVEMBER 6, 1967 -- DECIDED NOVEMBER 14, 1967.
Friday May 22 19:45 EDT


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