THE CHICKEN DID IT

A church sometimes will be held to the same standard as a profit making commercial property in bodily injury claims.  This is somewhat unfair because a church is typically led by a group of volunteers and one or only a few professionals, all of the latter of which are pastoral in training and outlook.

 

 In Vasilenko v Grace Family Church, Cal. App., Slip. Op., 2016, the court concluded there were triable issues, meaning that the church could not win on a motion but had to go to trial, because the overflow parking lot selected by the church was divided from the church property by a busy five lane street, because there was no safe crossing provided at the parking lot to the church (even though there may have been at the nearest but distant intersection), because the overflow parking lot attendants had no training about warning about the dangers of crossing the street and the procedure for doing so safely, and because the parking lot attendants were volunteers.  In other words, the chicken had to be taught how to cross the road.

 

 Of course, the failure to grant a motion for summary judgment is not surprising in a bodily injury case.  There are almost always fact questions to be answered in a trial in a bodily injury case.  Also, the Plaintiff in such a case would likely be confronted with the open and obvious defense, such as which of the five lanes of fast moving traffic did the Plaintiff fail to see, and questions about whether the Plaintiff’s inattention caused the Plaintiff to be unable to cross the road safely unlike the proverbial chicken that crossed the road.  Finally, the driver that struck the Plaintiff was a third party over whom the church had no control and might have been the primary person at fault.  In most places, pedestrians have the right of way.  In most places, a driver has a duty to drive so as to be able to stop in the assured clear distance ahead, meaning the driver cannot hit the pedestrian.  The third party driver of the car must not be inattentive.  The plethora of such issues is typically explored in discovery and the case settled reflecting a litigation discount based on the perceived weight of each argument.

 

 Most likely, the church had liability insurance for such a claim.  Be that as it may, if the bodily injuries were sufficiently catastrophic the sufficiency of the coverage might be tested if a jury with a lottery mentality decided the case.

The point is:  even selecting an overflow parking lot can require a risk assessment, even by a church.

 

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