Martinez-Morales v. Martens – Parking Lot Accident Liability

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports 20 percent of all auto accidents occur in commercial parking lots. Mostly, these will involve property damage and perhaps minor injury. parkinglot1

However, where pedestrians are involved, injuries may be serious.

There is generally a false sense of security while navigating parking lots. It’s part of an everyday routine. But that also means people often aren’t paying attention. Drivers are adjusting their radios, pedestrians are pushing carts, a child darts out in front of his mother. In a split second, everything can change. 

Determining liability can be challenging. Our adept Rock Hill injury lawyers have successfully handled many parking lot accident cases, and are prepared to analyze yours to determine whether you have grounds for legal action.

One parking lot accident case in Alaska wound its way up to the Alaska Supreme Court.  In the case of Martinez-Morales v. Martens, plaintiff appealed an earlier jury verdict finding defendant driver was not negligent for the car-vs-pedestrian crash.

According to court records, plaintiff was crossing a parking lot on foot after leaving a restaurant when he was struck by a vehicle driven by defendant. These were the only facts on which the two sides agreed.

Plaintiff asserted he walked normally into the parking lot, passed a truck and then looked both ways before stepping onto the main path. That, he says, is when he was struck by defendant’s car.

Defendant, meanwhile, stated she turned into the parking lot and plaintiff “ran” immediately in front of her. After she struck him, she stopped immediately.

Plaintiff alleged defendant was negligent because she was driving too fast in the parking lot and she was also in the wrong lane. He also alleged she failed to warn him before striking him and failed to yield to a pedestrian in the right-of-way. He sought damages for medical bills, physical and emotional pain and suffering, lost wages and loss of the full use of his body and life enjoyment.

Jurors, however, decided the case in favor of defendant and ordered plaintiff to pay her attorney fees. He appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Plaintiff argued the jury instructions were unfair. For one, he said jurors should not have been told not to award damages for losses potentially avoided with reasonable effort.

On this point, the court ruled plaintiff’s argument moot. The issue of damages was never debated by jurors because, even before they reached that point, they decided defendant wasn’t negligent.

Another challenge to the jury instructions, however, was properly before the court. The court told the jury a driver is negligent if he or she fails to use reasonable care in keeping a lookout for other travelers or obstacles or to control the speed and movement of the vehicle. Pedestrians, meanwhile, are negligent if they do not use reasonable care.

Plaintiff had requested the court used a different set of instructions, indicating drivers have to exercise care to avoid colliding with pedestrians and they must also drive on the right half of the road. The court declined to use these instructions, saying it did not believe these ordinances “apply to the parking lot situation.”

The Alaska Supreme Court found trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to use plaintiff’s proposed jury instructions, because the instruction they did use advised jurors to find negligence if they decided driver failed to keep a lookout for people or obstacles or hadn’t kept control of the speed or movement of her vehicle.

Trial court’s decision was affirmed.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Martinez-Morales v. Martens, Feb. 19, 2016, Alaska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

More Airbag Recalls Involve More than 9 Million Vehicles, Feb. 23, 2016, Rock Hill Injury Attorney Blog

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