Store May Be Liable for Parking Lot Accident in Washington

When a person is seriously injured in a Washington car accident, it is important to identify all potential avenues of recovery to help fully compensate the victim for their loss.  When an accident occurs in a parking lot or other private property, the property owner or business proprietor may have some liability for the accident, depending upon the facts of the case.

In a recent case, a person injured in a parking lot sued the owner of the store she was intending to enter.  The woman was seriously injured when a vehicle hit her while she was using a crosswalk to go to the entrance of a store.  The vehicle that hit her had to reverse into the crosswalk from the diagonal parking spot where it was parked to go north out of the parking lot.  The woman and her husband sued the driver and the owner of the shopping center.  They later added additional defendants, including the owner of the store.

The trial court found the store owner did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs and granted summary judgment to the store owner.  The plaintiffs appealed and argued the store owed a duty of reasonable care because it was in control of the parking lot.  The store owner argued the property owner kept sole control over the common areas under the lease.  The appeals court found the property owner was the possessor of the common areas and had responsibility for maintaining them under the lease.  The appeals court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument the store owner was liable as a possessor of the common area.

The plaintiffs also argued, however, that the store owner owed a duty of safe ingress and egress to its business invitees.  The store owner argued it did not owe such a duty over land that it did not own.  The store owner also argued that any risk in using the crosswalk was “open and obvious.”

In Washington, store proprietors have a duty of reasonable care to either keep the parts of the premises their customers use reasonably safe or to warn the customers about the dangerous condition.  This requirement includes a duty of safe ingress and egress, which applies to “approaches, entrances and exits.” Washington case law has held that this duty applies when the proprietor is not the owner of the area where the hazardous condition is.

The store owner argued the property owner was responsible for the common areas under the lease.  The appeals court noted that the retail owner had a duty to ensure its customers’ safe ingress and egress regardless of who owned or controlled the property.  The appeals court found the store owner had a duty of reasonable care to “eliminate foreseeable hazards to the ingress and egress from its store…”

The store owner also argued any danger in the crosswalk was open and obvious.  It also argued the plaintiff came to the store often enough to show she had actual knowledge of any dangerous condition.  The appeals court pointed out that a plaintiff’s knowledge and potential open and obvious nature of a dangerous condition are both fact questions that are not appropriate for summary judgment.

Additionally, there was expert testimony that the parking spot’s design was dangerous because drivers intending to drive north out of the parking lot had to back into the crosswalk.  The experts also opined the store owner should have known about the hazard and done something to correct it. The appeals court found these were material issues of fact that precluded summary judgment.

The appeals court reversed the summary judgment as to the store owner and remanded for further proceedings.

If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, a skilled Washington automobile accident attorney can help identify all potential sources of recovery and help you get the compensation you deserve.  Call Blair & Kim, PLLC, at (206) 622-6562 to arrange a consultation.

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