Beaudreau v. Burnham USA Equities, Inc. et al. (Aug. 23, 2022, G059971) 2022 WL 3593351

Plaintiff was injured in a strip-mall walkway when a mall patron pulling into a perpendicular parking space pressed the accelerator instead of the brake, causing the vehicle to jump a concrete wheel-stop and curb.

In his personal injury suit against the mall owner, plaintiff alleged that the parking lot’s design was unsafe without additional barricades or warnings.  The mall owner moved for summary judgment arguing that, absent prior similar incidents, it owed no legal duty to protect him from the curb-jumping vehicle.  Plaintiff claimed that the accident was foreseeable because both he and the driver—who were both in their 80s—were residents of a nearby community which was home to more than 9,000 people over the age of 50.  He also relied on misleading expert statistics purporting to show that curb-jumping incidents are common across the country.

In granting the mall owner’s summary judgment motion, the trial court relied on a published case, Jefferson v. Qwik Korner Market, decided almost 30 years ago that was almost identical.  Jefferson had affirmed summary judgment in the defendant’s favor, holding that such curb-jumping incidents are legally unforeseeable, and thus, businesses with perpendicular parking generally have no duty to erect additional barriers.

In his appeal to the same District and Division that had decided Jefferson (Fourth District, Division Three), plaintiff tried to distinguish Jefferson, and asked the court to overrule it.  His opening brief asserted that “experience and precedent have eroded” Jefferson’s vitality.  But Beaudreau declined to disturb the settled precedent, and instead affirmed its no-duty rule in favor of GMSR’s client:

Jefferson provides the correct analytical framework for this case.  The holding of that case is simple, straightforward, and on all fours with this one.  As we noted in that case, the majority rule is that the property owner is not responsible for an injury from a vehicle leaving the road.  Only in three instances is the property owner charged with a duty: when there is no barrier whatsoever, when it knows of a prior similar incident, or when the building design requires customers to wait for service near a driveway or parking lot.”

As plaintiff here had established no fact dispute as to any of these three circumstances, the Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court had properly granted the summary judgment motion filed by GMSR’s mall-owner client, and affirmed judgment in the mall-owner’s favor.

To read the Court of Appeal Opinion, click HERE.

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