Constructive Knowledge Lands Storeowner in Puddle

On March 12, 2012, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a Glynn County Superior Court finding of summary judgment in favor of a storeowner where Plaintiff slipped and fell in a puddle of wine along the rear aisle of the store. Bradley v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 12 FCDR 878 (Ga.App. March 2, 2012). There, to prove Winn-Dixie had constructive knowledge of the spill, Plaintiff pointed to her own testimony that a store employee was in the immediate vicinity of the hazard at the time of the fall. The trial court, however, found that Plaintiff had given contradictory testimony about this alleged employee and, applying the rule set forth in Prophecy Corp. v. Charles Rossignol, Inc., 256 Ga. 27 (1986) (Testimony of party who offers himself as witness in his own behalf at trial is to be construed most strongly against him when it is self-contradictory, vague or equivocal), viewed this testimony in an unfavorable light. Because of this position on the testimony, the trial court awarded summary judgment to the store. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court as Plaintiff’s initial statement that store employee was “facing” her when she fell, and later statement that employee was “facing the side” of her, were not contradictory, and thus would not be construed against her. Because contradictory testimony, which may be construed against a party relying exclusively on that testimony in opposition to summary judgment, is not to be construed against a party if she offers a reasonable explanation for the contradiction, the Court found that there was at least a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the storeowner had constructive knowledge of the hazard and, therefore, summary judgment should have been precluded.

For more information, please contact Timothy Buckley III, Esq. at (404) 633-9230.

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