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Premises liability does not extend to adjoining roadways

Can a business in New Hampshire or another state be held liable for not providing enough parking? Where a customer was killed walking to his car across a state highway after leaving a concert venue in an adjacent building, was the landowner liable to the deceased concert-goer?  One state appellate court has recently ruled that the business is not liable because there is no legal duty owed under premises liability law by the landowner to the business invitee.

The three-judge appellate panel decided that the law of premises liability does not require a landowner to protect its invitees from dangers on adjoining roadways. The decedent decided to leave a concert on defendant's property early in the show. The concert was on the left side of State Route 309, and the man was crossing the highway when it happened.

The clear implication was that, while the owner may be liable for injuries occurring on the owner's own parking lot, the duty does not extend to adjacent highways or roads. The case had been dismissed on the granting of a summary judgment by the trial court, and the appellate court unanimously affirmed the lower court's judgment. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania cited to a "substantial body" of authority that held the same way. The Court explained that any duty owed to a pedestrian in that situation would be owed by those with control and authority over the road and by those who operate their vehicles on the road.

The Court's decision limits a landowner's scope of liability to the boundaries of its own land. The decedent had been returning to his car which he had parked without authority on the other side of Route 309. The Court rejected the estate's argument that the landowner of the concert venue did have a duty under premises liability principles because it had failed to provide sufficient parking. A similar decision would likely apply in New Hampshire.

Source: thelegalintelligencer.com, "Duty to Protect Patrons Does Not Extend to Roadway Dangers", Max Mitchell, Jan. 27, 2017

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