Court Determines Church Did Not Assume a Duty to Visitors by Maintaining an Off-Site Parking Lot

Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a man who was seriously injured while crossing the street after parking in the defendant’s off-site parking lot. The case presents an issue that often comes up in Indiana premises liability cases:  specifically, whether the defendant landowner owed the plaintiff a duty of care under the facts of the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a petitioner at the defendant church. On a rainy evening, the plaintiff drove to the church for an evening seminar. Upon arriving at the church, the plaintiff realized that the on-site parking lot was full. A church volunteer directed the plaintiff across the street, to the church’s off-site parking lot. The parking lot was located immediately across a five-lane road.

The plaintiff parked in the off-site parking lot. He exited his car and, rather than walk the 50 to 100 feet to the nearest intersection, attempted to cross right where he had parked. As he was partially across the road, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

The plaintiff sued the church, arguing that the church was responsible for his injuries because the off-site lot required that he cross the highway where he was injured. The church argued that no duty existed, in that the road was a clear hazard and the plaintiff should have used his own judgment in crossing.

The court discussed a number of factors before ultimately determining that the church did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. First, the court considered whether this type of injury was a foreseeable consequence of maintaining the off-site parking lot. Determining that the plaintiff’s injury was foreseeable, the court moved on to consider the policy implications.

The court considered several factors when assessing the policy implications of the decision. Specifically, the court looked at whether there was any level of moral blame on the church’s part and whether the imposition of a duty in this case would prevent future harm. Both of these factors favored finding a duty. However, the court was swayed by the fact that the church did not do anything other than select the location of the parking lot; there was no allegation that the church worsened the danger of crossing the street. Thus, the court determined that under these specific facts, the church did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff as he crossed the street.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of Indiana personal injury cases, including car accidents and premises liability cases. Call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today. Calling is free, and we will not send you a bill for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve.

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