Legal Newsline

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Church does not owe duty of care to man struck while crossing street

By Dee Thompson | Dec 15, 2017

General court 06

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – The California Supreme Court has ruled that a church whose parking lot is across the street from the building does not owe a duty of care to a man who was injured while crossing the street.

Aleksandr Vasilenko sued Grace Family Church alleging the church owed him a duty because by directing people to park across the street, it “increased the likelihood that Vasilenko would cross the street at that location and thereby encounter harm,” according to the court’s order dated Nov. 13.

The Supreme Court concluded “a landowner does not have a duty to assist invitees in crossing a public street when the landowner does no more than site and maintain a parking lot that requires invitees to cross the street to access the landowner’s premises, so long as the street’s dangers are not obscured or magnified by some condition of the landowner’s premises or by some action taken by the landowner. Because Vasilenko does not allege that the church did anything other than maintain a parking lot on the other side of that street, we find that the church did not owe him a duty to prevent his injury."

In concluding the church didn’t owe Vasilenko a duty, it cited the rule that “‘in the absence of a statute a landowner is under no duty to maintain in a safe condition a public street abutting upon’ the landowner’s property unless the landowner created the danger,” according to the court’s order.

The order states Vasilenko attended a seminar at the church one evening in November 2010. The church is on Marconi Avenue in Sacramento, and Marconi is a five-lane street without crosswalks. 

When Vasilenko arrived, a church member told him to park across the street in the parking lot of the Debbie Meyer Swim School. The school and the church had an agreement that the parking lot could be used as overflow parking for the church. 

The church had crossing volunteers at the intersection of Marconi and Root avenues, but the church allegedly didn’t tell Vasilenko. He tried to cross and was struck by a car and injured.

Vasilenko sued Grace Family Church alleging it “created a foreseeable risk of harm by maintaining an overflow parking lot in a location that required invitees to cross Marconi Avenue, and that the church was negligent in failing to protect against that risk,” according to the court’s order. 

The church filed a motion for summary judgment saying that since it didn’t own or control the street, it didn’t owe a duty to Vasilenko. The trial court granted summary judgment. An appeals court reversed that ruling. The California Supreme Court granted review.

Judge Goodwin Liu authored the opinion.

Other justices concurred, namely justices Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Ming Chin, Carol Corrigna, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, Leondra Kruger, and Presiding Justice Barbara J.R. Jones of the 1st Appellate District Court of Appeals, Division 5. 

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