Every Tuesday, Bill volunteered to drive his elderly neighbor, Margaret, to the local supermarket. The supermarket was located in a shopping center. It had rained heavily for several days and it was obvious there were numerous potholes on the road in the shopping center. Bill drove a large SUV and normally these potholes were of no consequence. While approaching the area for parking by the supermarket, Bill hit a pothole which was far deeper than he had anticipated. It was later determined that the pothole was almost a half a foot deep. Because of the fact it was filled with water, Bill had no idea as he approached the pothole just how deep it was.
When Bill ran into the pothole, the entire truck dropped suddenly. While Bill felt a jolt, his passenger, Margaret, lurched violently forward and then forcefully backwards striking her head on the headrest. It would later be determined that Margaret suffered a very serious injury to her neck involving the herniation of several discs for which she would have to undergo surgery to repair the same.
QUESTION: Who is responsible?
ANSWER: On most occasions, parking lots such as the one that Bill and Margaret were on are owned by private companies. These companies have the duty to control, inspect, maintain and repair the parking lots and roads into the stores. People such as Bill and Margaret are considered business invitees. In their capacity as a business invitee, they are owed the highest duty of care by the land owner.
The company that was responsible for maintaining the parking lot had a duty to inspect the parking lot and not just wait for people to complain about the potholes. In this situation, the company had adequate time to inspect and repair the pothole and would be liable for the damages sustained to Bills\’ SUV or for Margaret\’s personal injuries.
Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.