Parking Structure Incident Lawyers

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Parking lot accident structure

Hello and welcome to the help center for vehicle storage facilities mishaps, and recovery for injuries caused at or by these structures themselves. Ehline Law Firm specializes in these types of scenarios, and created thas page in order to assist in educating individuals about their rights under tort and contract law. First, the owner of a parking structure or garage has the responsibility to maintain the property in a reasonable and safe condition. This is despite the fact that person storing their car received a ticket that says: “We assume no responsibility”, etc. When the owner or landlord does not keep the parking structure in a safe condition, they can be held legally accountable in a premises liability lawsuit. The fact is, that if you suffered a calamity at or near an unsafe parking facility in Los Angeles, or another nearby city, such as one that is caused by a defective concrete barricade, poor architectural design, etc., you will need a parking structure injury attorney by your side eventually. Ehline has recovered tens upon millions of dollars for wounded victims and their families.  This firm also offers excellent service in all California towns. Call (213) 596-9642 to speak to a legal advocate for a first time phone call, at zero charge to you, or contact us via our online forms.

Theories of Liability and Overcoming Defenses

First of all, these cases are covered under the same law as any other premises liability case (See Column 2.) Premises liability law goes into pinning down liability for harm upon the land owner, or other person(s) in possession of that property, or a structure on the premises itself.  It seeks to hold responsible, the person who by misfeasance, non feasance, or malfeasance, ignored or violated the safety and well being of other people who entered the premises in question. Although the law and definition of premises liability can vary between jurisdictions, the one constant in most jurisdictions and venues, is that a property owner has certain duties to keep visitors and invitees safe from certain dangers.

As discussed above, there seems to be a lot of confusion over these pieces of paper that are chugged out of the parking voucher dispensers at airports, and other storage houses for cars, containers and other vehicles. There are several potential legal theories that are lit up in any lawyer’s mind when whenever we hear that a parking facility has disclaimed its wrongdoing in these unassuming, one sided “contracts”.

Construction/Design Defect

In some cases, the design-build process could be the cause of a building collapse when the structure is full of vehicles, and a heavier vehicle begins to navigate up and down the successive stories. In other cases, a building could collapse during a low magnitude earthquake, for which it is supposedly hardened to withstand.  In all cases, there is definitely a property damage and tort claim that could arise out of these types of cataclysms and the structure itself, or part of it, has failed, or imploded.

Negligent Maintenance

The property owner, or landlord, is legally responsible for proper maintenance of parking areas, stairwells, handrails, elevators, curbs, oily surfaces, wet areas, parking barricades, and safety barriers. When there is a lack of proper care taken, there can be severe injuries or wrongful fatalities due to the negligence, misfeasance, malfeasance, and non feasance of another.

Negligent Security

Certain cases, like when a woman is raped or assaulted going to or from her car, or when a man gets mugged, are also well known to the public at large from movies, and news stories. This raises the issue of negligent provision of security.  These cases often revolve around action and inaction taken in and around “pay to park”, parking structures and parking lots.  And no, there is no way a person can waive their right to a safe ingress or ingress from a structure or lot that is a known danger to its manager or owner in California. But none the less, a defense is available, if there was no known danger, and there were adequate safeguards to help keep users and licensees somewhat reasonable protected. This is all typically a question of fact.

What About Bailments and Theft/Damage?

A Bailment is Defined as:

The temporary placement of control over, or possession of Personal Property by one person, the bailor, into the hands of another, the bailee, for a designated purpose upon which the parties have agreed.The term bailment is derived from the French bailor, “to deliver.” It is generally considered to be a contractual relationship since the bailor and bailee, either expressly or impliedly, bind themselves to act according to particular terms… (Source.)

In California, especially in LA, almost every time you use valet parking, or self parking service, and leave the key with an attendant, a bailment is created.  The bailee, is handed vehicle keys by its owner (“Bailor”.) The car’s owner, is also technically renting storage pace, and has temporarily transferred possession and control of the conveyance, as he gave up the keys and therefore control, to the garage attendant. But in most cases, if the keys to a secured vehicle were not made available, the contract between the parties could be construed as a lease to rent space, in which case, no rights to the vehicle itself were given over.
But What About the Disclaimer on the Parking Slip?
Enter the disclaimer.
dis·claim·er disˈklāmər/ noun noun: disclaimer; plural noun: disclaimers
1. a statement that denies something, esp. responsibility.
“the novel carries the usual disclaimer about the characters bearing no relation to living persons”

synonyms:

denial, refusal, rejection More

As you can see above, the wrench thrown into a successful property damage claim, could be a denial of legal responsibility or control over the place itself with a printed disclaimer. The parking slip has this nasty little disclaimer upon it that says the garage, or parking company is not responsible in any way for damages or theft. In any  But what about the theory of bailment above, or the fact that it goes against California public policy to allow a person to disclaim their own negligence or breach of a duty?  In any event, if the parking attendant wipes out the car suspension by getting air off speed bumps, damages or scratches the wheels, paint, or other part of the car, while moving it back and forth during parking it, how can they not be held legally liable? What if your cell phone or spare change, or wallet is stolen?

What the CA Courts Say About Disclaimers Generally

Remarkably, some California courts have found that a preprinted parking pass, is an express waiver of liability that may actually impart effective notification to patrons, that the garage would not assume any responsibility for property damage. But most of those courts held this in cases where the parking garage was simply disclaiming fault for damages with were caused by third parties while the car was parked in the storage facility.
But even in those cases, some courts actually decided that there is never a waiver of liability, unless it was actually consented to. So if a person did not read the disclaimer, courts have found insufficient notice even to disclaim third party liability. But remember, this would also indicate that even if there was no ticket, there could still be potential evidence that the customer did not see a posted warning as well. Often times, the structures are poorly lit, there are distractions, or poor placement of warnings, which could certainly render them useless. However, most courts look at all of this on a case by case basis, and we could find no bright line case that was on point, as to whether a garage could get out of liability for its own negligence.

Citations:

Evolving Liability for Design-Build Contracts: The Perfect Storm of Conflicting Interests By Joel B. Castro: http://www.defectlaw.com/pdf/Understanding%20Design%20Build%20Contracts%20JBC1.239.pdf

Risk Allocation in Design-Build Construction: http://www.schiffhardin.com/binary/risk_allocation_design_build.pdf

What About Other Known Hazards?

Although we did discuss what happens when a premises owner or controller fails to act in the face of known dangers, this section deals with the challenge what happens, and how exactly does an owner or controller engage in a particularly hazardous activity like storage of explosives or an open dangerous and unprepared condition, while still selling tickets. Suffice it to say that when this does happen, the controller or owner will typically assume a heightened duty of care. This is true, even when confronted with a trespasser being hurt. For example, if the structure is also being used to store dangerous construction equipment, or a safety barrier is unsafe, or not properly attached to bracing, the garage operator/owner probably has an absolute duty to post warnings around the perimeter of the danger zone, as a caveat to potential uninvited, as well as invited guests. There would more than likely be a duty to barricade the danger zone, and get it fixed before a gaggle of patrons rolls through, or a child is harmed or killed.  Understanding this so far?

The Many Other Types of Structure Incidents

Many personal injuries that can be sustained in a parking structure accident can be caused by a slip and fall accident, or a defective barrier, which combined with a greasy garage floor, can cause an occupied vehicle to careen off of a ledge, to its doom. This can mean that the injuries will involve head and back injuries, broken bones, cuts and gashes. When there has been an injury in a parking structure or garage this could be considered a premises liability lawsuit and the owner or landlord, should be held accountable for their negligence in failing to provide a safe environment for the foreseeable types of circumstances.

What Exactly is Premises Liability in California?

Under California premises liability an owner or controller is in lawful possession for purposes of liability, when he or she:

  • Is occupying premises, or land with intent to control the property;
  • At one point in the past was occupying the land or premises with intent to control it, and when there was not another who had later broken the chain of occupation and control; or
  • Is entitled to the land’s immediate occupation, assuming the above elements are not present.

General Duty of  Possessors

California has done away with the distinction between “invitee”, a “licensee”, or a “trespasser” when pinning down legal liability. In the definitions below, the term “premises” includes land, premises, or places of business. The term “possessor” means the person in possession of the premises.

(a)Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself. The design, distribution, or marketing of firearms and ammunition is not exempt from the duty to use ordinary care and skill that is required by this section. The extent of liability in these cases is defined by the Title on Compensatory Relief.  (Source Ca Civil Code Sec. 1714.)

In a nutshell, under the California rule, a possessor of property is liable for all physical damages caused by a condition or defect on the premises, provided that the plaintiff establishes that a reasonable owner or occupier failed to maintain, inspect or manage their premises in a reasonable way, unless the person injured willfully caused the harm to themselves despite the harm presented. (See eg., Buehler v. Alpha Beta Co. (1990) 224 Cal. App. 3d 729.)

So what this means to you as an injury victim, is that if a garage owner knows that one of the parking spaces are splashed with leaked oil (but would not appear to be oily or slippery due to poor lighting, trash on the floor, etc., to a reasonable visitor, with no prior knowledge), the premises owner or controller may be liable to a guest who, without notice of the broken step, suffers injury when the step collapses.

Best Defenses

The best defense for a parking garage owner to a victim, used to be that he or she was a “trespasser” at the time of the injuries. This is because the least legal protection was extended to the trespasser, a person who goes upon the premises of another for his or her own purposes, without an express or implied invitation, and not in the performance of any duty to the owner. Traditionally it was not necessary for a defendant to establish that the trespasser had unlawful intent in making such an entry. The only exception was that if the owner was actively negligent.  But this was done away with under the Rowland v. Christian case (69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968).)

 Learn More

When you have been injured or a loved one has suffered a fatality in a parking structure the attorneys at Ehline Law Firm PC, have the resources and the experience to file a lawsuit to hold the parking structure owner or landlord accountable for their negligence that caused injuries or death. These resources include experts that can help to build a winning lawsuit that the injured victim or family will recover fair compensation. Speak to an attorney today at Ehline Law Firm PC.