Del. SC rules against man who walked into car dealer's window

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 14, 2012, 10:15am


DOVER, Del. (Legal Newsline) - The Delaware Supreme Court said last week that a lower court was correct in ruling in favor of a car dealership that was sued by a prospective customer who walked into one of its windows.

Plaintiffs James and Lorraine Talmo appealed from the New Castle County Superior Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant Union Park Automotive.

In July 2007, James Talmo visited Union Park, located in Wilmington, to consider buying a Honda CR-V.

A salesman inside directed Talmo to an outside lot, where could take a look at one.

Believing that he was stepping outside, Talmo instead collided with a stationary plate glass, floor-to-ceiling window.

He claimed he sustained injuries to his brain, head, back, right shoulder, hips and left knee because of the collision.

The Talmos later sued Union Park, seeking damages for his personal injuries and loss of consortium.

The couple claimed the dealership had negligently maintained its premises by failing to: provide "proper lighting" and a "safe environment," take "reasonable steps" to adequately secure and make safe the premises, and take precautions to prevent the glass window from becoming a "danger."

The Talmos also alleged Union Park failed to erect any warning signs, or place any paper or notices on the glass window, which would have warned him of the existence of the window.

The superior court found that the Talmos failed to establish a prima facie case that the dealership acted negligently.

The state's high court, in its March 7 ruling, agreed.

"Owners and occupiers of commercial property have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for their customers, who qualify as business invitees under Delaware's premises liability common law," Justice Jack B. Jacobs wrote in the Court's seven-page opinion.

"But, patrons must also exercise reasonable care: they have an affirmative obligation to 'exercise the sense of sight in a careful and intelligent manner to observe what a reasonable
person would see.'"

Simply put, the Talmos' arguments lack merit, the Court said.

"Owners and occupiers of property are under no duty to warn persons on their premises about the existence of windows. As for the improper lighting claim, it is undisputed that James Talmo visited the car dealership during the day," Jacobs wrote.

"Even accepting as true that the lighting in the store was not 'proper,' the Talmos' claim must fail as a matter of law, because any customer exercising reasonable care (as Talmo was required to do) would notice a window before walking into it, particularly in the daytime."

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