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Landowner May be Liable for Crash Injuries – But Only in Some Circumstances

Car accident and pedestrian accident lawsuits usually involve claims that one or more motor vehicle drivers was negligent. However, an experienced injury lawyer can tell you it may be worth exploring whether other individuals or entities might also be responsible. A good example of this is landowner liability for crash-related injuries.

For instance, if you’re on a public road, we may explore whether the government poorly maintained, designed or constructed the road in a way that increased the odds of an accident or enhanced the severity of it. If you’re on commercial private property, we may explore whether the property owner failed in its duty of care to provide a safe means of ingress and egress for customers. And then there are also some cases where a private property owner could be liable for injury that occurs on a public road – but usually the circumstances to successfully make such a claim are limited.

Recently, the California Supreme Court took on this issue, deciding that landowners do not have a duty to insist invitees in crossing a public street when the landowner doesn’t do more than maintain a parking lot that requires invitees to cross the street to access landowner’s premises – so long as the dangers of the public street aren’t magnified or obscured in some way by a condition of landowner’s property or some action taken by the landowner.

According to court records, this situation arose in a street between two parking lots – one owned by a church and one maintained by it for the purposes of handling overflow from the congregation. On the day in question in November 2010, plaintiff was directed by a church volunteer parking attendant to use the swim school lot across the street. The school and the church had an agreement about allowing parishioners to park there during events. Although there were crossing volunteers at the site to help pedestrians, the parking lot attendant did not inform plaintiff of this.

Plaintiff parked in the swim lot and attempted to cross in the middle of the block, directly across from the church. Midway across the street, he was struck and injured by an oncoming motor vehicle. Plaintiff sued the church for negligence resulting in a pedestrian accident. He alleged the church created a foreseeable risk of harm by maintaining an overflow lot that required those invited to cross the street and that the church was negligent in failing to protect against this risk. He further alleged the parking attendants were inadequately trained and supervised.

The church sought summary judgment, arguing it did not have a duty to assist plaintiff in crossing a public street it didn’t own or control. Trial court agreed and granted summary judgment. An appellate court reversed. However, the state supreme court reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment ruling. The judicial panel reasoned that because the church did nothing other than maintain a parking lot that required visitors to cross a public street, the church didn’t owe a duty to protect plaintiff from dangers that are obvious when crossing a public street.

Other cases in Florida have pointed to landowners’ duty of care when it comes to motorists and pedestrians using public streets. For instance, in Davis v. Dollar Rent a Car Systems, Inc., Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals in 2004 ruled that even non-commercial property owners owe a duty of care regarding foliage on property that blocks motorists’ view and causes or contributes to crashes.

Our Orlando pedestrian accident attorneys can more fully explain whether you have a cause of action against a property owner after carefully reviewing the facts of your case.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church, Nov. 13, 2017, California Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Gets a Second Shot, Nov. 23, 2017, Orlando Injury Attorney Blog

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