Retailer Menards Loses Appeal in Michigan Parking Lot Injury Case

By | July 5, 2017

Months after hearing arguments, the Michigan Supreme Court has decided to stay out of a personal-injury case at a big-box store that could have consequences for retailers statewide.

The court said it will let an appeals court decision stand against Menards, the Wisconsin-based home improvement chain, which was sued after a shopper was struck by a pickup truck while pushing a cart outside a Bay City store in 2011. Virginia Rawluszki died from her injuries two years later at age 72.

Her family said Menards should have installed stop signs to slow down traffic at a crosswalk. The retailer, however, said the risk of being hit in a parking lot is open and obvious — a key legal standard in Michigan that often protects property owners from liability.

“You’ve got a square building with a square, rectangular parking lot. There’s nothing else around,” Menards attorney Alan Sullivan told the Supreme Court in January. “There’s nothing else that is different, unusual … at all when you’re out there.”

But two courts declined to dismiss the lawsuit. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous order on June 30, said it won’t get involved, leaving an appeals court decision in favor of Rawluszki’s family and sending the case back to a Bay County judge for trial or possible settlement.

“It doesn’t have the strongest precedent of a written opinion, but it’s the second-best thing the Supreme Court could have done: Let a jury decide,” attorney Philip Ellison, who argued on behalf of the family, said.

In a court filing, Sullivan said the presence of vehicles moving in a parking lot should be obvious to “an average person with ordinary intelligence.”

The Supreme Court’s newest justice, Kurtis Wilder, didn’t participate. He was on the panel that heard the case at the appeals court. He wrote in favor of Menards in that 2-1 decision.

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Latest Comments

  • July 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm
    Agent says:
    Perhaps the walker and the driver were both texting at the same time. Walkers will walk right into the traffic lane at the worst time and inattentive drivers will just keep o... read more
  • July 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm
    chris says:
    I think the responsibility is shared. Some people walk around in a parking lot like they have an invisible shield protecting them. Drivers should be held responsible but peop... read more
  • July 5, 2017 at 4:15 pm
    WyomingAgent says:
    So, if someone jaywalks and gets hit by a car the city has the responsibility for this persons safety because they didn't do enough to protect them from cars? At what point i... read more

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