Collision at Shopping Center: Parking Lot Design Issues

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Steven M. Schorr, PE ::::

Case Synopsis: Collision occurred in a shopping center parking lot when a passenger vehicle operator was backing out of her parking stall and contacted a pedestrian. The plaintiff pedestrian argued that in addition to the culpability of the driver of the backing vehicle, the owner of the parking lot was responsible for the collision due to improper design of the lot as well as improper maintenance. Specifically, plaintiff argued that the aisle width of the parking lot was improper, making the movement out of the parking spaces difficult. The plaintiff further argued that snow in the front of the parking space reduced the length of the parking space, thus exacerbating the hazardous condition created by the alleged improper design. The defendant vehicle operator testified that he had difficulty exiting his parking space due to the snow and the general design of the parking lot. He also testified that although he looked, he never saw the plaintiff prior to the collision.

Expert Analysis: Engineering analysis included an inspection of the parking lot and the creation of a to-scale, three-dimensional environment of the area of the collision. Utilizing the three-dimensional environment and a physics-based, computer-aided vehicle dynamics program, the capabilities of the backing vehicle were analyzed. The analysis established that the aisle width and the stall length [even with the snow located at the front of the stall] provided more than sufficient room for a reasonably prudent vehicle operator to safely back out of the parking space. Additionally, the parking lot specifications met, or exceeded all Township Code requirements. The three-dimensional environment was utilized to demonstrate the ease in which the backing vehicle could have exited the parking space. It was also utilized to show that had the vehicle operator looked through his rear-view mirror or his rear window, he could have seen the plaintiff pedestrian the entire time he was backing his vehicle from the parking space.

 

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