Parking Garage Hazards Permanently Impair Patron

Synopsis

The plaintiff, 56, returned to a public parking garage where her car had been valet parked to retrieve some items from the trunk of her car. The valet gave plaintiff her car key and plaintiff proceeded to her car on the second level. Per company policy, the valet had backed the car into the space so plaintiff needed to walk between her car and the adjacent car to access the trunk. As plaintiff approached the back of her car, she tripped on the wheel stop that extended into the space between the cars and was located 3 feet from the inner edge of the parking level. This caused plaintiff's body to fall forward and through a fake wall where she fell several feet to the parking level below, first hitting a car before ultimately landing on the concrete floor.

Plaintiff sued the owner of the garage and the company that provided the valet services at the garage for premises liability. Plaintiff claimed that the garage owner was responsible for the three hazards that contributed to her injuries: (1) The wheel stop, which extended over several parking spaces and did not have color contrast with the ground, was a hidden trip hazard that was not in conformity with industry standards; (2) There was no guardrail at the unprotected edge of the parking level as required by applicable codes and regulations, but instead a fake wall that provided plaintiff with a false sense of security; and (3) The dim lighting in the area did not satisfy code requirements and further concealed these hazards. Plaintiff also alleged that the parking company was negligent in failing to warn her of the hazardous conditions and in failing to pull out her car so that she would have avoided encountering the hazards.

The defendants claimed that the applicable building code did not require a guardrail and that plaintiff was distracted while walking towards the back of her car and contributed to her own injuries.

Injuries

Plaintiff was diagnosed with C4 ASIA D quadriplegia (central cord syndrome) and a neurogenic bladder. Initially, plaintiff's body was mostly numb and immobile below her neck. Following a spinal cord surgery and rehabilitation plaintiff's condition significantly improved, but she continues to endure substantial impairments, limitations, and pain. Plaintiff has nerve pain and muscle weakness on nearly the entire left side of her body. She experiences regular spasms from the tip of her fingers down to her toes on her left side as well as limited sensation. Plaintiff's left hand finger dexterity has been substantially diminished due to muscle weakness, pain, and a constantly clawed little finger. She is no longer able to touch her thumb to each finger on her left hand. On her right side, she has decreased sensation in her right dominant hand and arm and occasional pain in the area.

In addition to her spinal cord injury, she suffered a ruptured tendon in her left ankle that required surgery and rehabilitation. Plaintiff is currently able to tolerate walking about two blocks with her cane before she begins to experience spasms, weakness, clumsiness, and pain, particularly related to her left ankle.

Due to her injuries and functional limitations, plaintiff's vocational consultant opined that she would not be able return to any form of employment.

Damages

The plaintiff's damages included past medical expenses of $597,808, a life care plan of $1,202,513, and past and future lost earnings of $578,903 for a total of $2,379,224 in economic damages. Plaintiff also sought non-economic damages.

Settlement

The plaintiff settled with the defendants before trial for a total of $6,500,000.