Family Able to Sue Restaurant Owner for Dangerous Parking Lot, Even When Injury Occurred Offsite

600px-Road_Sign_No_Left_TurnThe family of a motorcyclist killed along the Pacific Coast Highway recently succeeded in persuading the California Court of Appeal that the case they presented against the owner of a restaurant property should not have been thrown out by the trial court. The family’s victory is notable because the fatal injury did not occur on the restaurant’s property. Even though the injury in question occurred offsite, the attorneys for the family raised a potentially valid basis for finding the restaurant owner liable because the owner reasonably could have anticipated that the restaurant’s confusing parking lot exit could lead to an accident and injuries.

The family’s suit arose as a result of the tragic events of March 16, 2011. Joseph Annocki was driving his motorcycle when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Terry Turner. Turner was leaving the parking lot of Geoffrey’s, a restaurant situated along PCH and owned by Peterson Enterprises LLC, when he attempted an ill-advised left-hand turn and collided with Annocki. Annocki died as a result of the crash.

The family sued Peterson for wrongful death. The restaurant’s owner either knew or should have known that the parking lot was designed in a way that it offered limited visibility of the adjoining highway and that the route for exiting the parking lot and entering the highway was confusing. The owner should have provided either additional signage for patrons directing them on how to exit the parking lot, hired additional parking lot valets to assist patrons leaving the property, or both.

The restaurant owner asked the trial court to dismiss the case, arguing that it had no legal obligation to warn patrons about dangerous conditions on the highway and that the family had not demonstrated that the fatal accident was a foreseeable result of the owner’s actions (or inaction). The trial court agreed and issued a summary judgment in favor of the owner. The ruling concluded that PCH was inherently dangerous, so the owner of any restaurant situated on it had no duty to warn patrons about its dangerousness.

The family, however, achieved a more favorable result on appeal. Even though, generally, if a person or entity does not control a property, it does not have a duty to shield others from injuries, the restaurant owner in this case was still potentially liable. The rule absolving liability for offsite injuries does not hold if the injury is foreseeable. The fatal injury the motorcycle driver suffered in this case was analogous to a previous fatality. In that 1999 case, a child driving a tricycle veered off a sidewalk, down his apartment complex’s steep driveway, and into a roadway, where he was struck and killed. Since the driveway was so steep and located next to a children’s play area, the possibility of a child rolling into the roadway was foreseeable. Similarly, the dangerous condition of the driveway made the sort of wreck that killed Annocki possibly foreseeable as well.

The path to success in your personal injury or wrongful death case may involve many steps to achieve the justice you deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, talk to the Oakland motorcycle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Our injury attorneys have the determination and the knowledge of the law you need to help you along each step of the way. Contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Injured Trucker, Passenger Can Use Doctors, Not Unpaid Bills to Establish the Value of Medical Services, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Aug. 15, 2014

Trucker Potentially Liable for Teen Driver’s Injuries Due to Illegal Parking Stop, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, June 13, 2014