Georgia Chamber of Commerce: Premises Liability and Your Business
Tuesday, September 6th, 2022
Why it Matters
Premises liability has been expanded in Georgia due to recent court cases. The rulings in these cases coupled with increasing nuclear verdicts has rapidly deteriorated the state’s legal climate. Because any individual who owns a business is at risk, premises liability has risen in importance as juries are awarding tens of millions of dollars against business and landowners for injuries from the crime instead of holding criminals primarily responsible. As crime rates rise, businesses must go to even farther standards to protect their patrons and employees. As the nation’s top state for business, reforms to premises liability are needed to ensure Georgia remains prosperous and safe.
According to the U.S. Chamber’s Lawsuit Climate Survey, Georgia ranks 41st in terms of its liability system. Previously, the state ranked 31st in 2015 and 24th in 2012 proving there has been a degradation in our legal climate over the last ten years. In 2021, the American Tort Reform Association ranked Georgia amongst its top “Judicial Hellholes” in the U.S. only following behind New York and California. A key driver of this trend is the increase in premises liability cases and the rising nuclear verdicts awarded by juries that have accompanied these cases.
Premises liability cases have risen in Georgia due to increased crime rates. For the third consecutive year, homicide rates in the city of Atlanta have increased while crime continues to plague communities across the state. Increasingly, when crimes occur on a business’ premises, the victims choose to sue the landowner as opposed to the criminal with the hope of receiving verdicts awarding the plaintiff in some cases tens of millions of dollars. In 2019, a DeKalb county jury awarded $70 million to a robbery shooting victim in a Kroger parking lot and a Fulton county jury awarded $43 million to another robbery shooting victim in a CVS parking lot. In the Kroger case, security guards were present and in the CVS case the store was closed, and the individual was not a customer. As businesses work to protect employees and customers from crime, they must also contend with unclear state guidance, rising operating costs, and the threat of expensive litigation.
Why it Matters to your Business
Every property owner is at risk of increased crime and potential expensive litigation. If these trends continue, it could lead to a lack of investment in high crime communities where access to grocery stores and resources are needed most. In 2019, the cost of Georgia’s civil justice system was estimated to be $3.631 billion. As business owners and citizens contend with inflation and rising operating expenses it is paramount to reign in expenses and the uncertainty resulting from undue litigation.
What Georgia Can Do
Enact legislation that establishes a clear standard by which business and property owners can follow as they implement procedures to protect their employees and customers
What You Can Do
Encourage your legislators to support bills that provide premises liability protections for business and property owners.
Engage with the Georgia Chamber’s Political Action Committee which supports candidates for office who will prioritize further business and community growth in Georgia without increasing the threat of litigation against businesses.
The Big Picture
While Georgians deserve the right to recover damages where there is evidence of negligent management of properties, costly lawsuits resulting from increased crime rates pose challenges for Georgia’s job creators and their employees limiting our state’s competitiveness and ability to drive growth.