Friday, September 23, 2016
S.C. to Rule on Liability for Injuries Sustained While Walking From Overflow Parking Lot
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a property owner that maintains and controls an off-site parking lot may be held liable for injuries suffered by a pedestrian walking from the lot to the property.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco Wednesday, unanimously granted review in Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 146. The Third District Court of Appeal held that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to take reasonable steps to protect him from injury en route from the lot to the church, and said he presented enough evidence to avoid summary judgment on the question.
Aleksandr Vasilenko was hit by a car while crossing a busy five-lane road on his way from the lot controlled and staffed by Grace Family Church, where he was planning to attend a function. He alleged that the church negligently located its overflow parking lot in an area that required invitees to cross a busy street and took no steps to protect him from that risk.
A Sacramento Superior Court judge granted summary judgment, but the Court of Appeal reversed.
Justice Coleman Blease acknowledged the general rule that where there is no ownership or control of the property on which the injury occurs, there can be no duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the injury. This case is different, however, because the defendant “created the danger by maintaining the overflow lot in a location that required invitees to cross a busy thoroughfare that it knew lacked a crosswalk or traffic signal in order to reach the church.”
Thus, it was control of the overflow lot, not of the street where Vasilenko was struck, that was crucial, Blease said, with Justice M. Kathleen Butz concurring.
Presiding Justice Vance Raye dissented. While it is “tragic” that the plaintiff suffered serious injuries “while on a spiritual mission,” he wrote, the church is not liable because it “is not a property manager” and “did nothing to increase the risk posed by adjacent property over which neither it nor the [owner of the parking lot] exercised control.”
He also noted that parking lots servicing multiple businesses are frequently located next to busy streets.
“More will be built in the future as metropolitan areas become increasingly congested,” he argued. “The safety of streets and crosswalks has never been the responsibility of parking lot operators or businesses that rely on such parking lots; it is the responsibility of those who maintain the streets and those who choose to cross them. There is no compelling reason to refashion the rules of premises liability or principles of negligence to impose a duty on parking lot operators or owners of land adjacent to busy thoroughfares to guarantee the safety of pedestrians who cross such roadways.”
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