Ruling limits duty of care owed to pedestrians by property owners

California Supreme Court Rules Against Plaintiff in Pedestrian Accident Case

Property owners are typically liable for accidents that occur on their property due to their negligence. But what about pedestrian accidents that occur as visitors are crossing a public street to visit their premises? Are property owners liable?

The California Supreme Court recently considered this question in the case of Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church. The plaintiff in this case was hit by a car as he was crossing the street from a parking lot used by the church to the church edifice. The plaintiff alleged that, knowing visitors who parked in the overflow lot would have to cross the street, Grace Family Church should have provided some form of assistance like a crossing guard or a crosswalk. In not doing so, they were negligent and therefore should pay for his damages.

The church argued that it did not owe a duty of care to the pedestrians crossing to and from the parking lot. A well-established legal principle holds that landowners have no duty to prevent accidents on streets outside their properties unless the landowner has done something to increase the risk of an accident.

So the question becomes: did the church increase the risk of an accident by directing visitors to park across the street?

The California Supreme Court said no. The Court stated that simply using a parking lot across the street does not create any duty of care to protect visitors from pedestrian accidents in the street. The dangers of crossing a street are open and obvious, meaning the plaintiff himself was responsible for avoiding them. His decision to jaywalk—while foreseeable—was not the church’s fault.

The court further noted that it was not reasonable to expect property owners to assume liability for everything that happens to visitors on a public street. Such a policy could result in property owners simply ceasing to provide parking at all, which would be a detriment to the community.

The situation might have been different if the church had voluntarily set up a crosswalk or appointed a crossing guard to help visitors across the street. This would constitute a voluntary assumption of a duty of care. If an accident were to happen because the church executed this duty of care negligently, the injured pedestrians would have a case.

Have You Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident?

Pedestrian accidents can result in serious injuries including broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and head injuries. If you have been hurt in a pedestrian accident, it is important to consult an attorney ASAP. Call The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 and we’ll help you understand your legal rights during a free initial consultation.

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