According to the Democrat & Chronicle, the fall occurred in a hospital parking garage at dawn, when she arrived early to undergo surgery for cancer. She was assisting her daughter, who uses a wheelchair, in getting out of the vehicle. She tripped on a cement parking stop that had been placed inside a pedestrian walkway next to the handicapped parking stall. Those cement stops were the same color as the floor in the parking garage, and the lighting, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer, was “grossly inadequate.”
The plaintiff fell as a result and suffered a fractured shoulder. A significant issue in this case was the fact that the hospital was unable to provide records of maintenance or inspection for the area where the plaintiff had fallen. As an invitee to the property, she was owed the highest duty of care by the property owner and site manager. That means not only would the hospital need to keep up with regular maintenance, promptly address any hazards, and warn about those that are not immediately remedied, but also staffers must regularly inspect areas used by patients and visitors for possible dangers. The hospital’s inability to prove that it did this was central to the plaintiff’s case.
Parking lots and parking garages are common sites for falls. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 95 percent of American households have at least one car, and many will end up in a parking lot or parking garage almost daily.
Some of these incidents occur because the parking lot was poorly designed. Well-designed parking lots and parking garages make it impossible for vehicles to speed. They also have an adequate amount of space between parking stalls.
Pedestrian trip-and-fall incidents often occur because the property owner is not doing an adequate job of:
- Clearing debris or trash from walkways;
- Cleaning slippery spills or leaks caused by engine oil or antifreeze;
- Making sure speed bumps are well-maintained and painted;
- Ensuring walking surfaces are smooth;
- Maintaining enough lighting;
- Keeping handicapped ramps in good condition and maintaining adequate signage;
- Checking for exposed spikes and other hazards; or
- Making sure wheel stops and parking barriers are easy to see and properly placed.
Severe weather can aggravate even minor damage to a parking lot walking surface, which increases the risk of slips and trips for patrons. Although property owners can’t control the weather, they can control their anticipation of and response to it.
In some cases in which parking lots have been the scene of repeated incidents of violence, property owners may have a duty to hire guards, add more lights, or install cameras to make sure there is an adequate amount of security.
This is an issue that has been studied and litigated repeatedly, so much is known and understood about the safe design, inspection, and maintenance of pedestrian facilities – including parking lots and walkways. That means property owners have no real excuse for a failure in this regard. Reasonable and prudent inspections of facilities will result in identifying concrete deterioration, burned out lights, and other hazards that should be addressed in a timely manner to reduce the risk of trip-and-fall injuries.
When property owners fail to use reasonable care in maintaining their parking lots, they can be held liable for the injuries that result.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Injured woman wins suit; Highland Hospital to appeal, Oct. 11, 2016, By Lois Wilson, Democrat & Chronicle
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Hogans, et al. v. Johnson & Johnson – Talcum Powder Product Liability Case is Bellwether, Oct. 12, 2016, Carolina Injury Lawyer Blog