Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church – Injured Pedestrian Sues After Hit by Car

Can persons injured in a car accident on a public road sue private property owners? suv1

It depends on whether some condition of the property or action by the owner created a hazard in the road or established a duty of care by the owner to the injured person. It can be a thorny legal question, which is why it is best handled by an experienced injury lawyer.

In the recent case of Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church, an appeals court in California ruled a claim should be allowed to proceed, even though it is against a private property owner and the person injured was struck on a public street. 

Here’s what happened, according to court records:

Defendant church was located adjacent to a swim school on the other side of a five-lane street. There is no traffic signal or marked crosswalk nearby. Nonetheless, the church had an agreement with with the swim school allowing church patrons to use the swim school’s parking lot (“overflow lot”) when the church parking lot became full. Church members volunteered as parking attendants and would help drivers navigate the main parking lot in the church and, if the lot was full, would direct people to other places to park when the main lot was full.

Invitees to the church were given maps that showed alternative parking spots nearby, and one of those was the swim lot, where there were additional parking attendants stationed.

One night in 2010, plaintiff arrived for a church function, but the main lot was full. A volunteer parking attendant gave him a map showing the overflow lot at the swim center and the attendant instructed plaintiff to park there.

Although attendants were directing people on where to park, no one was providing assistance or instruction on how to cross the street. Plaintiff was one of three patrons who arrived around the same time. They waited about one minute before it seemed traffic had cleared. Then they all crossed together. About halfway through, one of those patrons later testified, they saw headlights coming up over the hill. He and his girlfriend started running toward the other side of the street. Plaintiff, however, was hit by a car and seriously injured.

Plaintiff sued the church alleging negligence for creating a foreseeable risk of harm by maintaining an overflow parking lot that required invitees to cross a busy street without providing protection against that risk or training or supervising parking lot attendants in this duty.

Defense moved for summary judgment on the grounds it did not owe a duty to assist plaintiff with or provide instruction on how to safely cross a public street that it did not own or control. Plaintiff countered that the fact the street was a public one didn’t matter here because defendant church controlled the overflow lot – including its location. The church has selected and established this place as an overflow lot, despite the fact that it required parishioners to take a dangerous route to get to the church.

Trial court granted defense motion for summary judgment, but the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, reversed.

Although in most instances, those who have no control over a premises owe no duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury, the church in this case did control the location and operation of the overflow lot, which caused or at least contributed to the injury, when the facts are viewed in light most favorable to the plaintiff (which is the standard when reviewing a summary judgment).

Therefore, the case should be allowed to go to trial.

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

Additional Resources:

Vasilenko v. Grace Family Church, June 17, 2016, California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District

More Blog Entries:

1-Year-Old Girl Killed in Charlotte Car Accident When Father Yields to Funeral Procession, June 21, 2016, Spartanburg Car Accident Attorney Blog

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