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Bikes, Automobiles, and Shopping Centers
by Ron Davis
Location made a big difference in an accident victim’s recent lawsuit against a California shopping center. That’s because of a finding that the site of the accident is not on shopping center property–though only a few feet away. As a result, the courts ruled that the shopping center owner is not liable.
The accident, which occurred in Anaheim, involved a bicycle and an automobile. As the bicyclist, while riding on a public street, passed a driveway that accesses the shopping center, he collided with the automobile, whose driver was exiting the center.
The bicyclist, who suffered an injury from the collision, sued the shopping center owner, claiming it was liable for the accident. In response to disclosure that the spot of the accident was on a public street, the bicyclist pointed out that the automobile involved was exiting property that is under the control of and maintained by the shopping center owner.
Moreover, the bicyclist added, the shopping center owner built and controlled a wall separating the center’s parking lot from an adjacent piece of property, and that wall, he said, obstructed the view of cars leaving the premises, thereby creating a dangerous condition.
The shopping center owner replied that the bicyclist did not establish a crucial fact of his legal case: that the shopping center owner “owns, possesses, or controls the property where the accident occurred.” In fact, the owner added, a land grant deed clearly shows that the city of Anaheim owns the accident-site property.
The California courts agreed with the shopping center owner, explaining, “The city of Anaheim controlled the right of way where the accident occurred. In support, the shopping center owner submitted copies of a land grant deed and a resolution by the city of Anaheim accepting the grant.... Based on this evidence, the shopping center owner met its burden to show it did not control the place of the accident, thus negating an essential element of the lawsuit.” (Williamson v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 2005 WL 648074 [Cal.App. 4 Dist.])
Decision: March 2005
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