Court of Appeals Upholds Bolton Standard of “Superior Knowledge” In Premises Suits
Brandon Montgomery was allegedly attacked outside of a gas station owned by ABH. Montgomery lived near the shopping center where the gas station was located for at least 15 years, was familiar with the people in the area, and knew that the gas station was in a dangerous area. On August 22, 2015, Montgomery went to the station to buy snacks and was met with a man in front of the store asking for money. Montgomery declined and went into the store to purchase his snacks. When he came out, the man and other assailants attacked Montgomery after exchanging some words.
Montgomery sustained injuries in the attack and filed suit against the store, alleging a failure to keep the premises safe, nuisance, and punitive damages related to those failures. The store moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The store appealed and the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed.
In reversing, the appellate court found that even though Montgomery showed that 911 was called several times to the shopping center, he could not show that any of those calls were substantially similar to the subject crime because the call log only included “a date, time, and general, vague descriptions of what the call was regarding.” Further, there was “ample evidence” that Montgomery “knew about the criminal element surrounding the store”, given that he had frequented the store for at least fifteen years and worked at a barber shop within the shopping center. Montgomery knew people, including his roommate, who understood the shopping center to be a dangerous area. “The key question. .. is the land owner’s superior knowledge of the criminal activity.” Bolton v. Golden Bus., 348Ga. App.761, 762 (2019). Because Montgomery could not, therefore, show that the shopping center or gas station had a knowledge of criminal activity superior to his own, the Court of Appeals found that ABH should be granted summary judgment. The court’s opinion can be found at https://law.justia.com/cases/georgia/court-of-appeals/2020/a20a0854.html.