The Wrong “Approach”

by

Robinson v. Kroger (Georgia)
(Woman Falls Due to Hole in Parking Lot and Sues Grocery Store; Court Finds Store Not Liable for Parking Lot Area Under Lease Agreement and Applicable Statute)

Plaintiff had gone to the bank inside the defendant Kroger grocery store, and she was walking back to her car when the accident occurred. Plaintiff stepped over a concrete bumper in the parking space next to the space in which she had parked. the bumper obscured a hole in the pavement, and when plaintiff stepped over it, her foot went into the hole and she fell to the ground.

Plaintiff sued Kroger, and Kroger filed a motion for summary judgment contending that it was responsible only for the leased premises and approaches to the store. Kroger pointed out that its lease does not extend to the parking lot, which is designated a “Common Area” for the use of all the tenants and their customers. Further, Kroger stated that it was the landlord’s responsibility to maintain those common areas. The trial court ruled in favor of Kroger, and the plaintiff appealed.

Georgia Code § 51-3-1 provides: “Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” On appeal, the court stated that the lower court had correctly determined that the parking lot was owned and maintained by Kroger’s landlord and was not an “approach” to the premises for purposes of Georgia Code § 51-3-1.

Therefore, judgment was affirmed in favor of Kroger.

NOTE: Facilities of all kinds leasing commercial space should pay close attention to the maintenance provisions in their lease agreements. They should also be aware of the pertinent statutory provisions which address their maintenance obligations.

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