Case details

Men’s club claimed parking lot condition was not dangerous





Result type

Not present

On Feb. 5, 2011, at around 6:30 p.m., plaintiff Donna La Notte, 59, a cashier at Costco, arrived at the parking lot of the Verdi Club, a club in Fresno for males of Italian ancestry to gather, of which La Notte’s brother and father were members. La Notte was invited to attend an annual crab feed as a guest. It was dark out, and she parked in the gravel overflow parking lot before beginning to walk toward the entrance of the club. As she was walking between some cars, she tripped and fell over a concrete wheel stop. Both of La Notte’ knees landed on the asphalt and she allegedly sustained to them. On Dec. 2, 2011, La Notte was stopped at a traffic light on Perrin Avenue, in Fresno, when her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Scott Grossenberger, who was in the scope of his employment with Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. La Notte claimed she was injured in the crash as well. La Notte sued Verdi Club of Fresno Inc.; Grossenberger; and Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. La Notte alleged that Verdi Club failed to properly maintain the parking lot, creating a dangerous condition. She also alleged that Grossenberger was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Novartis Pharmaceutical was vicariously liable for Grossenberger’s actions. (The cases were pleaded together in a single complaint.) Prior to trial, Grossenberger and Novartis Pharmaceutical settled with La Notte for $30,000. The matter then went to trial against Verdi Club only. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that a line of approximately 13 wheel stops lined the edge of the paved parking lot, separating it from the gravel. Counsel also contended that the parking lot was illuminated by a single, 400-watt halogen light that was pointed toward La Notte’s vehicle on the night in question, creating a glare. Counsel further contended that the light did not illuminate the wheel stop and, instead, caused shadows from the vehicle to hide it. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel argued that a wheel stop in a known pedestrian walkway constituted a dangerous condition and that the lighting in the parking lot was not sufficient. The plaintiff’s expert in safety engineering testified that wheel stops were not the preferred barriers in parking lots and that they were dangerous in the day time, but even more dangerous at night, when they can be hidden by shadows. The expert also agreed that the lighting was insufficient, as it measured less than what was required by a Fresno ordinance. Counsel for Verdi Club contended that parking curbs of the nature of those involved in the subject case are common in most parking lots and that they are open and obvious to anyone walking between parked cars. Thus, counsel argued that La Notte was not watching where she was going. The defense’s lighting/vision expert testified that the lighting and the location of the wheel stop in the gravel parking lot met the recommendations of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America., La Notte landed on both of her knees. She later drove home that night and, a few days later, saw her primary care physician. X-rays were taken and came back negative. MRIs of both knees showed reactive edema to the patellofemoral compartment with chondral wear. In the fall of 2011, La Notte underwent a series of Euflexxa injections. She also wore a brace and started an exercise program. However, La Notte claimed she still had problems with her knees, including pain with walking, and pain and swelling in her knees due to being on her feet all day at work. In June 2012, she underwent a total right knee replacement. La Notte claimed that she is expected to also undergo a total replacement of the left knee in August 2014. Thus, La Notte sought recovery of $28,254.29 in past medical costs and an unspecified amount for her future medical costs. She also sought recovery of damages for her pain and suffering. Counsel for Verdi Club contended that La Notte only sustained bruising to her knees and that La Notte’s were modest and not severe. Additionally, counsel contended that La Notte had pre-existing arthritis in her knees, which was the cause of her pain.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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