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Retailer must face trial in parking lot injury case

During Northern Virginia business hours, parking lots are beehives of activity, with cars, trucks and pedestrians constantly moving about. Collisions and injuries seem to be inevitable, but the legal duty of retailers to post appropriate signs and otherwise regulate traffic in these lots remains an open legal question. A recent state court appellate decision on this issue may affect premises liability cases in Virginia and other states.

The plaintiff, a 72-year-old woman, was pushing a shopping cart when she was struck by a pickup truck. Two years later, she died from her injuries. The woman's family sued the department store, claiming that the retailer had a legal obligation to post stop signs or other warnings to slow vehicle traffic.

The department store, Menards, moved to dismiss the case on the ground that moving traffic in the parking lot was "open and obvious," and that it was immune from the lawsuit. The trial court denied Menards' motion, and that ruling was affirmed by an intermediate appellate court.

Now, the state's Supreme Court has declined to accept Menards' appeal from the appellate ruling, meaning that the case will be returned to the trial court. The appellate court decision remains the law.

While the decision does not bind any other courts in Michigan or elsewhere, the reasoning may be persuasive to other state courts who take up the issue. In other words, the "open and obvious" defense may not be effective to shield retailers from liability in cases where a moving vehicle injures a pedestrian.

Anyone who has suffered an injury or lost a loved one in an accident on the premises operated by a large box retailer may wish to consult a personal injury lawyer about the possibility of bringing a lawsuit. An experienced attorney can provide advice on the law and facts of the case and the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Source: Grand Rapids Business Journal, "Retailer loses appeal in personal-injury case," Ed White, July 6, 2017

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