The plaintiff, a 70 year-old retired grocery store clerk, visited a BayBank branch office in Burlington. The plaintiff parked his car in the parking lot owned by the bank, located directly next to it.
After exiting from his vehicle, the plaintiff walked around the rear of his car and toward a cement walkway which lead from the parking lot to the entrance of the branch office. The cement walkway was the primary pedestrian path leading from the parking lot to the bank’s main entrance.
In order to reach the cement walkway from his parking space, the plaintiff was forced to walk between two closely parked cars, located directly in front of the cement walkway. As the plaintiff walked between the two cars he suddenly felt his feet slip out from under him, and he fell to the ground fracturing his femur. The cause of his fall was a patch of motor oil located between the two parked cars.
The plaintiff’s case involved claims for personal injury and loss of consortium suffered by the plaintiff’s wife, predicated on negligence. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in failing to maintain its parking lot in reasonably safe condition, resulting in the plaintiff’s serious injury.
The defendant originally claimed that the plaintiff would be unable to meet his burden of proof on the ground that the plaintiff was unable to offer any evidence as to how long the oil had existed on the parking lot before he slipped. The plaintiff countered that evidence as to the age of the oil deposit was irrelevant insofar as the defendant’s negligence was in its failure to properly stripe its lot in compliance with prevailing architectural standards relating to parking lots, to allow the plaintiff to see the oil before stepping in it.
The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s failure to stripe-off a section of the lot directly in front of the cement walkway promoted parking by bank customers directly upon the pedestrian path, and made it difficult for the plaintiff to observe the ground as he walked. The plaintiff also posited that the defendant knew or should have known that cars would deposit leaking oil upon the pedestrian travel way if allowed to park upon it.
The plaintiff’s counsel obtained plot plans, certified by the town’s building inspector’s office, which demonstrated: (1) that no permits had been obtained prior to the construction of the cement walkway; and (2) that the parking lot in which the plaintiff was injured did not comply with either state or local regulations pertaining to parking lot layout and design. The plaintiff was prepared to offer evidence at trial that the defendant had operated its parking lot without any striping whatsoever, leaving customers free to park anywhere they desired, including directly in front of the only walkway leading to the bank.
The plaintiff’s case was complicated by his advanced age, the existence of a chronic coronary condition, and two total knee replacements existing at the time of injury. The case was mediated by Samuel Hoar of Endispute and settled after one day of mediation.
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