Pedestrian Injuries Due to Negligent Design in North Carolina

In Blackmon v. Tri-Arc Foot Systems, a North Carolina court considered a plaintiff’s claim for damages based on negligence in designing and maintaining a parking lot. The plaintiff was age 37, working as a third shift employee for Talecris Plasma Resources. After his shift ended shortly before 8 a.m., he went to a Bojangles fast food restaurant. The restaurant had a lot with marked parking spaces for customer use, but the plaintiff didn’t park in those spaces but instead parked in front of the restaurant along the curb of the driveway.

The plaintiff later testified that he parked there because he was driving a 22-foot-long crew cab truck that wouldn’t fit in the marked spots. He wanted to be able to see the truck while eating. He’d previously parked there many times, and the defendant’s employees and manager knew that customers sometimes parked there. However, about two years before, another vehicle parked there had been rear-ended.

The plaintiff came out of the restaurant and saw that his rear taillight had been damaged, and another truck in the lot had corresponding damage. He got help from a police officer eating inside. The officer asked the plaintiff to stand behind his truck while he took down his information.

However, while they were standing there, a woman drove her SUV into the parking lot and turned right to drive along where the plaintiff’s truck was parked. She hit the back of the pickup, pinning the plaintiff between the two vehicles. Later, she testified that she’d been distracted due to the presence of police cars in the lot and then was blinded by sun in her eyes. She later pled guilty to careless and reckless driving.

Due to the accident, the plaintiff needed to be hospitalized for three months and had to have his leg amputated. His leg and pelvis were fractured, and he lost vision in his left eye. He sued the defendant. The judge denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. During trial, the court excluded the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. This testimony was that the accident wouldn’t have happened if the defendant had included certain safety features like speed bumps in the design of its parking lot. Based on the exclusion of this testimony, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his case without prejudice. He refiled his case, alleging that the defendant had negligently failed to keep the parking lot in a reasonably safe condition.

The defendant filed for summary judgment, a motion that was granted. The plaintiff appealed. The appellate court explained that the ultimate issue in a premises liability case is whether the defendant failed to use reasonable care in maintaining its premises to provide for the safety of lawful visitors. The plaintiff argued that the defendant shouldn’t have allowed two-way traffic in the road in front of the restaurant and that it should have stopped customers from parking where the plaintiff had parked.

The appellate court ruled that the plaintiff parking there was contributory negligence as a matter of law. It also explained that even if, for argument’s sake, the defendant was negligent in the design of the lot, the other driver’s careless and reckless driving was not foreseeable and was considered intervening negligence.

If you suffered injuries as a pedestrian, the experienced premises liability and personal injury attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 888-258-1087 or via our online form.

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