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Verdict: Not Liable
by Ron Davis

A motorcyclist injured in a collision with a car that was exiting a Missouri shopping center must find a target to blame other than the center’s owners. That’s because a Missouri jury and appellate court have cleared the owners of any responsibility for the mishap.

The shopping center is located in suburban Kansas City, and the accident occurred as a shopper was attempting a left turn from the premises onto the busy highway that runs in front of the shopping center. When he spotted what he thought was a break in the traffic, he accelerated his car into the highway. But he failed to see the oncoming motorcycle traveling in the far traffic lane. The motorcycle slammed into his car, and the 17-year-old rider was thrown from his vehicle.

The motorcyclist suffered, among other things, brain-stem injuries, a broken leg, and permanent crossing of the eyes. He currently has a seizure disorder and moves only with the assistance of a walker or wheelchair. His grandparents now care for him.

Attorneys for the motorcyclist sued the shopping center’s owners, claiming that the youth’s injuries resulted from the dangerous condition existing when shoppers exited the center property in their cars. Specifically, the charges alleged that motorists leaving the center have inadequate sight distance on a highway that gives no warning of an upcoming “intersection” that the center’s owners have known could be dangerous.

At the jury trial, however, one of the shopping center’s owners testified that at the site of the accident, he had made “well over a thousand” left turns onto the highway without any concern about the available sight distance. The owner also said his entire staff used that exitway “a lot.”

In rebuttal, the injured youth’s lawyers argued that “the exitway wasn’t necessary and that the shopping center’s owners could have redesigned the sight lines and requested of the city a right-turn-only designation for cars exiting the center at that spot. The lawyers also contended that the center’s owners could have moved the entrance/exit farther to the east of the current location.

After the jury heard all the testimony and reached a verdict in favor of shopping center’s owners, the injured youth’s attorneys appealed, asserting that the court rejected witness testimony that would have helped the jury determine that the exitway was dangerous. But a Missouri appellate court upheld the jury verdict, pointing out that restrictions on witness testimony offered by the youth’s attorneys were legally acceptable. (United Missouri Bank v. City of Grandview, 2005 WL 3281019 [Mo.App. W.D.])

Decision: December 2005
Published: December 2005



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