Client Alert: Restaurant Owed Duty of Care to Driver Killed by Third-Party on Street Adjacent to Restaurant Parking Lot

In Annocki v. Peterson Enterprise, LLC, (Filed 11/14/2014, Certified for Publication 12/5/2014, No. B251434) the Court of Appeal, Second District, held a restaurant owed a duty of care to the driver of a motorcycle who died as a result of the negligent driving of a third party exiting the restaurant’s parking lot.

Decedent, Joseph M. Annocki, was driving his motorcycle on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, when it collided with the vehicle operated by Terry Allen Turner, who was exiting the parking lot of “Geoffrey’s” restaurant, which was owned and operated by the Defendant, Peterson Enterprise, LLC (“Peterson”).

The parents of the decedent (“Plaintiffs”) filed suit against Peterson, alleging Peterson failed to adequately staff the restaurant parking lot, which caused Turner to become confused and make an illegal left turn onto Pacific Coast Highway, thereby causing the accident that killed decedent. Plaintiffs further alleged Peterson knew, or should have known, that its parking lot and driveway were designed and in such condition as to create a danger of decreased visibility of the adjacent highway, and failed to adequately provide signage directing patrons that only right turns could be made onto Pacific Coast Highway.

After Peterson successfully demurred to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, Plaintiffs amended. After several more amendments and demurrers, Plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint. Peterson demurred again, and the trial court sustained the demurrer, this time without leave to amend, holding Peterson owed no duty to the decedent.

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding Peterson “had a duty to warn patrons of the danger in exiting its parking lot as it was on notice of the dangerous conditions of the highway and the risk it posed to patrons leaving the restaurant as well as the danger to persons traveling the highway from a patron exiting the lot in an unsafe manner.”

In reaching this holding, the Court relied largely on Barnes v. Black (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1473, 1478, in which the Court of Appeal held a “landowner’s duty of care to avoid exposing others to a risk of injury is not limited to injuries that occur on premises owned or controlled by the landowner. Rather, the duty of care encompasses a duty to avoid exposing persons to risks of injury that occur offsite if the landowner’s property is maintained in such a manner as to expose persons to an unreasonable risk of injury offsite.” The Court also cited McGarvey v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 55, 562, in which the Court of Appeal noted “[c]ircumstances can be conceived where an occupier of land could create automobile snarl-ups on his premises or unleash forces onto public streets the nature of which would require a court to say that injury to third persons was foreseeable and that a duty of care existed and was breached.”

The Court of Appeal ultimately reversed the trial court’s ruling and granted Plaintiffs leave to amend their Complaint to allege additional facts.

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December 12, 2014