Monday, December 8, 2014
Appellate Panel Allows Suit Against Malibu Restaurant Over Fatal Crash Involving Patron
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The family of a man who was killed when a car leaving a restaurant struck his motorcycle may have a viable claim against the restaurant owner for failing to put up a sign warning drivers exiting its parking lot not to turn left onto Pacific Coast Highway, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. One Friday certified for publication its Nov. 14 ruling allowing Joseph M. Annocki’s family to amend their complaint against Geoffrey’s, a Malibu restaurant. According to news accounts, Annocki was riding east on the highway, when a white sedan driven by 50-year-old Terry Turner pulled out of the parking lot of the restaurant, in front of the motorcycle.
Annocki was killed in the March 2011 crash, which occurred about 9 p.m. His parents sued the restaurant, as well as Turner and Caltrans, who were not parties to the appeal.
At a hearing on the restaurant’s demurrer to their third amended complaint, plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the lot was inadequately staffed with valets and did not have signs stating “Wrong Way,” “No Left Turn,” and “Stop-Right Turn Only,” and explained that Turner had an impaired view of the highway when he attempted to exit Geoffrey’s by its north driveway, which was on a hill. He attempted to turn left, they said, before encountering temporary traffic dividers, then backed up toward the driveway and collided with the motorcycle.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue sustained the demurrer, ruling that the restaurant had no duty to warn its patrons regarding roadway conditions.
But Justice Jeffrey Johnson, writing for the Court of Appeal, said such a duty might arise under Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108.
That case elucidated the factors that must be looked at to determine whether a duty will be imposed as a matter of public policy—foreseeability of harm, degree of certainty of injury, closeness of causal connection between the injury and the breach of alleged duty, the moral blameworthiness of the conduct, the extent to which imposition of duty would prevent future harm, the burden on the defendant and the community if the duty, and the cost and availability of insurance.
“[O]ur analysis of Rowland factors indicates that the facts here support finding defendant had a duty to warn patrons of the danger in exiting its parking lot as it was on notice of the dangerous conditions of the highway and the risk it posed to patrons leaving the restaurant as well as the danger to persons traveling the highway from a patron exiting the lot in an unsafe manner,” Johnson wrote.
The jurist reasoned that it was foreseeable that patrons exiting at night might not see the dividers and make an unsafe turn, particularly if they had been drinking and that other users of the roadway might be injured as a result. There was, he added, a close connection between the failure to warn and the crash, and “moral blame that can be attached to defendant’s failure to take minimal, inexpensive steps to avert harm to its patrons and persons in the roadway,” including installing proper signage and painting the driveway.
Attorneys on appeal were Donald G. Liddy of the Liddy Law Firm and Thomas J. Johnston of Johnston & Hutchinson for the plaintiffs and James Grafton Randall of Early, Maslach & O’Shea, along with Roxanne Huddleston, for the defendant.
The case is Annocki v. Peterson Enterprises, LLC, B251434.
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