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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
C. A. TRUSSELL MOTOR CO. v. HAYGOOD.
36129.
Tort; invitee, etc. Before Judge Cobb. Clarke Superior Court. January 6, 1956.
FELTON, C. J.
The petition alleged a good cause of action against the defendant; therefore the court did not err in overruling the general demurrer to the petition.
W. T. Haygood sued C. A. Trussell Motor Company for damages allegedly caused by the defendant's negligence. The petition alleged as follows: "Defendant owns and operates an automobile business, being a Ford dealer, selling and trading in automobiles, parts and accessories, and in connection with said business it owns and operates a shop wherein automobiles and motor vehicles are repaired by it for its customers. In fact, it is Athens' oldest automobile dealer and the location of its place of business is at No. 165 Pulaski Street, Athens, Georgia. Said defendant solicits patronage of people for the purchase of automobiles and motor vehicles sold by it and for having repairs done [on] motor vehicles by it at its said place of business. In the rear of its place of business and separated from the repair room is a space or room where estimates are made covering the repairs contemplated on motor vehicles and where body repair work is done. A door opens to the outside through which motor vehicles enter, which door is near the rear of the building, but on the side. A smaller door enters the main repair shop where other repairs are done to motor vehicles. The main repair shop extends from the room where body repair work is done and estimates made in the direction of Pulaski Street for approximately 100 feet to the office and place where parts and accessories are stored on one side and to a space opening out to an entrance to the street on the other side. The main repair shop is approximately 60 feet in width. To the right of the space opening out to the entrance to the street is a room or space for washing and greasing motor vehicles, which is separated from the main repair shop by a partition, and extends back towards the rear for about one-half of the length of the repair shops. Between Pulaski Street and the office and place where parts and accessories are stored is the display or show room. The floor of said main repair shop is made of concrete and surface of which was finished very smoothly and so smooth as to be dangerous when wet. For approximately 75% of the distance from the rear to the front end of said shop, the floor slopes to the center from either side to a drain covered by an iron grating; and from thence to the front end of said repair shop there is a slope towards the aforesaid drain. These slopes are not noticeable to one unacquainted with the premises. The floor at the drain is approximately 1 inch lower than it is at the sides and end, and because of which is made an area dangerous to persons who go there for the transaction of business when the floor is wet from water or escaping oil from automobiles and motor vehicles under-
going repairs therein, all of which was well known to the defendant herein, its employees and agents at said place. Defendant constructed or caused to be constructed its said place of business and before beginning its construction considerable excavation had to be done, and the concrete floor aforesaid is considerably below the level of the earth on the northerly side of said place of business and there is a bank some 6 or 8 feet high near the northerly wall of said building. Windows open out through this wall some 3 and 1/2 or 4 feet from the floor and extend upward about 6 feet. However, the main repair shop gets but very little light through said windows due to the height of said bank, growing trees and a dilapidated two-story frame building on the adjoining property, which property is also owned by the defendant herein. The roof of the repair shop is crescent shaped, higher in the center than it is on either side. It has a row of lights on each side of the drain aforesaid about midway between it and the sides of the building, which lights are on the beams running across the top of the walls on the sides, and are spaced approximately 12 or 15 feet apart. The lights cast shadows of the motor vehicles which are undergoing repairs in said shop, so that there is not a uniform light on the floor throughout the repair shop; and the same is true as to the light which enters through the windows of said building. On each side of the drain herein referred to repair work is done to motor vehicles, except the body repair work which is done in the room just to the rear of the main shop. There is a grease rack on one side of said shop which is near the office and place where parts and accessories are stored. On May 13, 1954, petitioner owned an automobile, which a short time before had been injured in a collision; and which he carried, with a view of having same repaired, to the place of business of said defendant and entered the room where estimates for costs of repairing and repairs to bodies are made, entering from the door to the side near the rear of said building. After having arrived, he requested the employees, servants and agents of said defendant to inspect and examine his vehicle and make an estimate of the cost of repairing same, thus occupying the status of an invitee and customer of said defendant. The employees, servants and agents of the defendant made an examination and inspection of said vehicle, preparatory to making an estimate of the cost of making the needed repairs, and went then to the office of said defendant, petitioner also going at their request, so as to complete said estimate. When the estimate was completed it was handed to petitioner and he turned and started to his automobile in the room at the rear. Petitioner was not a frequent visitor to the place of business of said defendant and was not familiar with the sloping construction of the concrete floors and that the same were a hazard and unsafe and dangerous to those who were unacquainted with its constructural conditions, and he relied upon the discharge by defendant as the owner of said premises of its duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises safe in all respects for invitees going there for such purposes as those carrying petitioner there, which to the injury and damage of your petitioner he has learned that it has failed to do. After petitioner had entered the place of business of the defendant and while his automobile was being inspected and examined and the estimate of the cost of repairing same was being made, a heavy rain fell and automobiles entered the front of the main repair room or shop dripping with water from the rain and the concrete floor had become wet in places because of same. After the estimate had been completed and handed to petitioner, he had started to his automobile as hereinbefore alleged, and when he was some 20 or 25 feet from the office he stepped in some oil which had escaped from an automobile, which oil had been allowed to remain on the concrete floor until water had gotten into it from an automobile that had entered during the rain, and petitioner thereupon slipped and fell to the floor and sustained the injuries hereinafter set out. The place in said building where petitioner fell and the other places therein traversed by him on said occasion were regularly used by customers of said defendant, and your petitioner was lawfully thereat as a customer and invitee at the time he fell and sustained his injuries. Said defendant made the repairs on petitioner's automobile in accordance with the estimate made at said time. When petitioner accompanied the employee, servant and agent of the defendant to the office to have the estimate completed and as he started to return to his automobile, the clouds from which the rain had just fallen were still overhanging and very little light came through the windows and other openings of defendant's place of business, the lights within the shop were shining dimly, casting shadows of
automobiles on each side of the drain hereinbefore referred to which were undergoing repairs on the floor, and an automobile was between where your petitioner fell and the entrance opening to the drive leading to Pulaski Street at the front, so that visibility in the repair room or shop was poor and the peculiarity of the smooth finish of the concrete floor was not detectable, and the wet condition and escaped oil were not obvious at the place where petitioner fell and sustained his injuries, that is, were not obvious to petitioner. The defendant having constructed said building and occupied the same for a number of years as a place of business, it, said defendant, its employees, servants and agents knew that the floor of its repair shop was constructed as hereinbefore alleged and that it was finished smoothly, and so smooth as to be dangerous when wet because of water or escaping oil thereon; it, said defendant, and said employees, servants and agents knew that in repairing motor vehicles oil would escape to the floor of said shop and that the floor would become slick and slippery because thereof, and even more so when water got into it; it and they knew that motor vehicles entered said shop for repairs and entered same when dripping with water from a shower of rain which had fallen and that the floor in places would become wet therefrom; it and they knew that the wet places on the floor, caused either by water or oil, or both, were not always obvious and detectable because of poor visibility as hereinbefore set out; and petitioner being lawfully thereat, as a customer and invitee, the defendant knew or by the exercise of ordinary care could have known that the place where petitioner slipped and fell was wet with water and oil, was a hazard and dangerous, and it, said defendant, should have warned him of such and it was negligence not to have done so."
The defendant excepts to the overruling of its general demurrer to the petition.
The plaintiff in error contends that the petition does not state a cause of action because, (1) it does not show that the defendant knew or should have known of the condition which allegedly caused the injury; and (2) it does not show why the plaintiff could not have discovered that condition and avoided the consequence resulting therefrom.
As to contention (1) above, the petition alleges: "The floor at the drain is approximately 1 inch lower than it is at the sides and end, and because of which is made an area dangerous to persons who go there for the transaction of business when the floor is wet from water or escaping oil from automobiles and motor vehicles undergoing repairs therein, all of which was well known to the defendant herein, its employees and agents at said place. The defendant having constructed said building and occupied the same for a number of years as a place of business, it, said defendant, its employees, servants and agents knew that the floor of its repair shop was constructed as hereinbefore alleged and that it was finished smoothly, and so smooth as to be dangerous when wet because of water or escaping oil thereon; it, said defendant, and said employees, servants and agents knew that in repairing motor vehicles oil would escape to the floor of said shop and that the floor would become slick and slippery because thereof, and even more so when water got into it; it and they knew that motor vehicles entered said shop for repairs and entered same when dripping with water from a shower of rain which had fallen and that the floor in places would become wet therefrom; it and they knew that the wet places on the floor, caused either by water or oil, or both, were not always obvious and detectable because of poor visibility as hereinbefore set out; and petitioner being lawfully thereat, as a customer and invitee, the defendant knew or by the exercise of ordinary care could have known that the place where petitioner slipped and fell was wet with water and oil, was a hazard and dangerous, and it, said defendant, should have warned him of such and it was negligence not to have done so." These allegations are sufficient as against a general demurrer to show that the defendant knew that the floor was dangerously slippery when wet, and that it knew the floor would become wet when raining and cars drove into the shop from the outside. Therefore, it is alleged that the defendant knew or should have known by the exercise of ordinary care that the floor of the shop was dangerously slippery when the plaintiff fell.
As to contention (2), the petition does not show that the plaintiff was so negligent that he was barred from recovery as a matter of law. Cases are cited by the plaintiff in error which involve slippery floors, but in those cases where recovery was denied the court found that it did not appear why the plaintiff could not have ascertained the condition of the floor, it not being alleged that there was defective or insufficient lighting or that the plaintiff's vision was impaired. Those cases are not applicable here. The plaintiff here alleges one of the elements said to be missing in those cases. He alleges that outside light was prevented from illuminating the floor because of the obstruction by a bank and a building just outside the shop windows, and that the lighting system in the building was such as to cast shadows on the floor, and that the floor was not uniformly lighted. The presence of shadows and defective or insufficient lighting can render undetectable an otherwise apparent defect or dangerous condition. See Atlanta Enterprises v. Douglass, 93 Ga. App. 237 (91 S. E. 2d 296); Tybee Amusement Co. v. Odum, 51 Ga. App. 1 (179 S. E. 415); Hanson v. Atlanta Lodge No. 78 B. P. O. Elks, 88 Ga. App. 116 (76 S. E. 2d 77).
The petition states a cause of action as against the general demurrer, and the court did not err in overruling that demurrer.
Judgment affirmed. Quillian and Nichols, JJ., concur.
Rupert A. Brown, contra.
Erwin, Nix, Birchmore & Epting, Howell C. Erwin, Jr., for plaintiff in error.
DECIDED APRIL 30, 1956 -- REHEARING DENIED JUNE 6, 1956.
Saturday May 23 02:17 EDT


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