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Bad Lot for Cop
by Ron Davis

Did an unsafe design of a parking lot at a Conway, AR, shopping center cause an on-duty policeman’s traffic injuries that occurred there?

That was a question Arkansas’s courts had to answer in a bizarre case resulting from two traffic accidents that involved the same policeman in the same shopping center parking lot.

In the first accident, the policeman was rear-ended at an intersection in the parking lot. He sued the driver of the other vehicle and eventually won a sum of $1,784 to reimburse him for medical bills he accumulated from the injuries he suffered in that accident.

Some five weeks later, the policeman was at the same shopping center, and while driving through the parking lot was “t-boned” by another vehicle. As a result of injuries he sustained in that accident, he sued the shopping center owner, arguing that a “new” design of the parking lot was defective and that the lot was not maintained in a safe condition.

At the time of the second accident, the policeman was completing a personal errand at the shopping center. So he was legally an “invitee,” and the shopping center owners therefore were duty-bound to maintain the parking lot in a reasonably safe condition for him, as well as other shoppers.

Arkansas law states that property owners have no such duty, however, if invitees know about some hazardous condition of the parking lot and therefore “appreciate” the dangers involved. But the policeman maintained that he did not know that new intersections in the parking lot had created such dangers.

The center’s owners pointed out, however, that parking lots, by their nature, contain intersections so cars can move from streets to parking spaces and vice versa. And the policeman had even admitted that he had investigated wrecks at the existing cut-through lanes in that parking lot. He also stated that because he knew that wrecks had occurred at the new intersections of the parking lot, he slowed down and looked left and right twice before entering the new cut-through lane where the second accident occurred.

An Arkansas court, in ruling in favor of the shopping center owners, explained, “[The policeman] did not argue that he had no choice except to use this particular intersection [where the accident occurred]. The shopping center’s owners therefore had no duty to him if he knew about some condition of the parking lot and appreciated the dangers it involved…. He did in fact know and appreciated the risks of the new intersection.” (Lackey v. Mays, 2008 WL 4000622 [Ark.App.])

Decision: August 2008
Published: September 2008



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