Premises Liability Settlement: Ashley Lucas v. ACME Properties

Butler Law Firm secured a substantial settlement on behalf of a young lady who suffered a severe laceration to her hand when a bathroom mirror suddenly fell on her hand while she was cleaning her apartment. The exact amount of money recovered is confidential at the insurance company’s request.

Our client, “Ashley Lucas” (not her real name) was a 32-year old mother of two, who was employed full-time as a housekeeper at a local hotel. Ms. Lucas had moved into her apartment about one year before she was injured by the falling mirror. As part of her initial move-in inspection, Ms. Lucas noted that the downstairs bathroom mirror appeared to be loose, so she asked the property manager to fix the loose mirror. The property manager, who was ACME’s employee, told Ms. Lucas that the mirror had been fixed. In truth, however, the mirror had not been fixed.

See what Ms. Lucas had to say about the Butler Law Firm and her attorney, Tom Giannotti.

Apartment Complex Failed to Keep Premises in Good Repair

Ms. Lucas, having been told that the loose mirror was fixed, went to clean her bathroom mirror on April 20, 2020. As she attempted to clean it, the mirror fell off the wall and shattered. One of the thick shards of broken glass fell on her left hand, badly cutting her hand in the space between her ring and middle fingers. She rushed to the emergency room and underwent surgery three days later.

ACME appeared to be clearly liable for Ms. Lucas’s injuries under Georgia law. Despite having been notified about the loose mirror, ACME never fixed it, and then told Ms. Lucas that it had been fixed. See O.C.G.A. § 10-6-58 (“Notice to the agent of any matter connected with his agency shall be notice to the principal.”). ACME’s failure to repair the mirror after being notified of the problem was an abdication of its legal duties pursuant to O.C.G.A. §§ 44-7-13 and 44-7-14. Additionally, ACME was liable for its failure to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition as required by law. See O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. If ACME had followed through and actually fixed the loose mirror, Ms. Lucas’s injuries would have been easily avoided.

However, ACME attempted to argue that it should not be held responsible for Ms. Lucas’s injuries because at the time of Ms. Lucas’s move-in inspection, ACME had just recently acquired the property from a different company. ACME tried to point the finger at the previous property owner by claiming that Ms. Lucas had instead notified that company.

Default Judgment against Apartment Complex

Nonetheless, ACME missed its opportunity to present that defense because it failed to timely file an Answer or otherwise respond to the lawsuit. Despite being personally served with the lawsuit, ACME’s registered agent either failed to notify the appropriate person at ACME, or ACME simply missed a key deadline. Georgia law is fairly forgiving when it comes to this sort of missed deadline, and allows an additional 15-day grace period for a defendant to answer a lawsuit late. Still, ACME did nothing, and the result was a default judgment against ACME. A default judgment means that the defendant has legally admitted liability by virtue of its total failure to respond to the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint.

Damages in Premises Liability Case

Once our firm obtained the default judgment, the remaining question was the amount of damages Ms. Lucas should be awarded. Our firm talked with Ms. Lucas’s supervisor at the hotel, who spoke highly of Ms. Lucas’s work ethic and how she even tried to come into work after the injury and clean with only one hand. Ms. Lucas ultimately had to change employment to a job in customer service that involved less use of her injured hand.

Our firm also met with Ms. Lucas’s treating hand surgeon, who agreed to provide a written report explaining his treatment and our client’s prognosis. As Ms. Lucas’s surgeon explained, the mirror shard had cut her hand so badly that it severed the nerve in her ring finger. The surgeon had to transplant a section of nerve graft into Ms. Lucas’s hand in order to repair the nerve damage and then had to take skin grafts from the other side of Ms. Lucas’s hand to cover the area where the skin was damaged. Even with the surgery, Ms. Lucas’s surgeon explained that she would likely never regain full feeling in her ring finger, and it could take years for her to regain all the feeling that she could hope to regain in her finger.

With the medical report documenting just how serious and permanent Ms. Lucas’s injuries were, our law firm sent a settlement offer to ACME in the hopes of securing compensation for Ms. Lucas before having to await trial. ACME then scrambled to explain away its failure to respond to the lawsuit. Four months after it was properly served with the lawsuit, ACME sought special permission from the court to make an exception to the rule that a defendant must answer a lawsuit within 30 days of being served.

Personal Injury Settlement with Apartment Complex

On the eve of the scheduled hearing on ACME’s motion to set aside and open the default judgment, ACME finally agreed to settle Ms. Lucas’s claims for a substantial amount with which Ms. Lucas was happy.

It brings our law firm great pleasure to see a satisfied client like Ms. Lucas get the financial compensation she deserves. Although that money won’t change the fact that Ms. Lucas will have to live with her injury for the rest of her life, it does make her life a bit easier after having endured significant financial stress and tremendous pain and suffering as a result of ACME’s negligence.