Martinez-Morales v. Martens – Parking Lot Accident Lawsuit

Parking lot accidents are unfortunately quite common, including those that involve pedestrians. An estimated 1 in 5 motor vehicle accidents take place in a parking lot, according to AAA research.parkinglot

Much of this has to do with a false sense of security. Both pedestrians and drivers anticipate that traffic is going to move more slowly in a parking lot, and therefore, they don’t take as many safety precautions. They don’t pay careful attention.

The AAA study pointed to poor lighting and blind spots as two main contributing factors to parking lot crashes. Some southern cities have reported a rise in parking lot accidents in recent years. Officials have cited cars moving too fast and people walking alongside moving cars. Plus, because law enforcement officers don’t routinely patrol parking lots, drivers take advantage of that freedom to take shortcuts or speed. 

Still, that does not mean establishing liability will be a straightforward matter. An experienced injury lawyer should be consulted to weigh the various elements of your case, including the potential need to put forth or disavow expert witnesses.

The Alaska Supreme Court recently considered a parking lot accident case, Martin-Morales v. Martens, which involved a pedestrian and a motor vehicle.

According to court records, defendant was driving a vehicle when she struck a pedestrian/ plaintiff as he crossed the lot. He was existing a restaurant, but there was conflicting evidence as to the manner in which he exited.

Plaintiff reported he was “walking normally” into the lot, walked past a truck, stopped and looked both ways before stepping on to the main path of the parking lot. It was then, he says, that he was struck by defendant’s vehicle.

Defendant, meanwhile, asserted she turned into the parking lot and suddenly, plaintiff “ran right in front” of her, at which point she immediately stopped the vehicle.

Plaintiff sued for negligence, asserting defendant driver was:

  • Driving too fast;
  • Driving in the wrong lane of the parking lot;
  • Failed to warn plaintiff of an impending collision;
  • Failed to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian.

Plaintiff asserted bodily injuries in the form of medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering and lost wages and loss of life enjoyment.

The case proceeded to trial in 2014. After a one-month trial, jurors returned a verdict finding in favor of defendant, concluding she was not negligent.

Defendant appealed the verdict to the Alaska Supreme Court, requesting the verdict be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial. He alleged jury instructions on causation and damages were not based 100 percent on state law and the result of an enhanced proof burden on plaintiff. He also opined the court should not have admitted the testimony of defense’s expert witness.

On the issue of damages instruction, the court found that issue moot because jurors never reached that point because they had answered “no” when it came to the question of causation.

And on that point, the state high court ruled, the trial court had not committed any error. The lower court hadn’t made a mistake in declining to use the instructions suggested by plaintiff.

As far as admitting testimony from defense expert witness, an accident reconstructionist, no error was committed there either, the state supreme court ruled.

Plaintiff had argued witness was unqualified to testify as an expert because he hadn’t taken any crash reconstruction courses in 15 years and had not researched or published anything in the field and wasn’t certified by the national group. Defense countered witness had extensive experience in law enforcement and accident reconstruction.

The court noted there are two kinds of expert witness testimony: One based on technical or scientific research and/or testing and another on practical experience in a relevant field. Scientific testimony is subject to a higher standard, but that was not applicable here.

The verdict stands.

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

Additional Resources:

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

More Blog Entries:

Collins v. COP Wyoming – Emotional Injury Claim Not Barred by Workers’ Comp Exclusivity Rule, Feb. 24, 2016, Rock Hill Injury Attorney Blog

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