Is a Bar Responsible for Injuries Caused by a Motorcycle Parked on the Bar’s Sidewalk?

Jerad M. Zarnoch sustained very serious injuries when he was struck by a motorcycle that was parked on the sidewalk in front of The Varick Bar and Grill.

Mr. Zarnoch was standing on the sidewalk when Jeffrey J. Williams got on his motorcycle and accidentally pinned Mr. Zarnoch against the building.

He Parked His Motorcycle on the Sidewalk in Front of the Bar

Williams apparently decided on his own to park his motorcycle on the sidewalk in front of the bar. No one from The Varick Bar and Grill ever told Williams to park his motorcycle on the sidewalk and the bar did not have the authority to allow customers to park on the sidewalk.

The Motorcycle Insurance Policy Was Not Enough

Unfortunately, as with many motorcycle accidents, the motorcycle insurance policy was small and not enough to compensate for the serious injury. But bars usually have a lot of insurance.

He Sued the Motorcycle Bar

The best way to sue the bar would be to allege the bar served the motorcyclist too much alcohol but, apparently, there was no evidence that the bar served the motorcyclist too much alcohol or even that the motorcyclist was drunk.

Mr. Zarnoch sued Mr. Williams.  But, looking for additional insurance coverage, he also sued The Varick Bar and Grill alleging that the bar should also be responsible for his injuries because of the special use doctrine.

Does the Special Use Doctrine Apply to Motorcycles Parked on Sidewalks in Front of Bars?

The special use doctrine is a legal principle that transfers the duty to keep public sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition, from the municipality to the landowner, when permission has been given, by a municipal authority, to the landowner to interfere with a street solely for private use in a way that is not connected with the public use.

In other words, if The Varick Bar and Grill had a permit from the municipality allowing it to use the sidewalk for parking motorcycles, the bar would become responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. However, The Varick Bar and Grill did not have authority from the municipality to use the sidewalk for its own private parking lot.

The Supreme Court of the State of New York agreed that the bar owed a duty to Mr. Zarnoch to keep the “sidewalk motorcycle parking lot” safe and a jury awarded Mr. Zarnoch $850,000, substantially more money than the motorcycle insurance policy.

However, the bar appealed the New York Supreme Court (trial court) decision. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reversed the trial court decision and dismissed the lawsuit against the bar.

The Appellate Division ruled that the special use doctrine does not apply because there was no defective condition in the sidewalk that caused the accident and the bar did not have a permit or authority to utilize the sidewalk as a motorcycle parking lot.

Without the municipal authority to use the sidewalk for parking motorcycles, The Appellate Division said that the bar “had no duty to maintain, repair, supervise or control the sidewalk with respect to vehicles parked on it. Plaintiff’s (Mr. Zarnoch) position on the sidewalk ‘was no different from that of any other passerby’ using the public sidewalk.”

Thus, if The Varick Bar and Grill had a permit allowing motorcycles to be parked on the sidewalk, it would have been liable to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition.

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Motorcycle Lawyer Phil FranckelPhilip L. Franckel, Esq. is the author of all articles on NYMotorcycleAttorneys.com.

You may have met Phil Franckel at a motorcycle event. Phil created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®. He is a Founding Partner of 1-800-HURT-911® New York, well-known in New York for representing motorcyclists. He has a 10 Avvo rating, Avvo Client’s Choice award with all 5-star reviews, Avvo Top Contributor, and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.


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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is the author of all articles and content on this website, one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York, well-known for representing motorcyclists. He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®.

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New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer and Founding Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

Robert Plevy, Esq. is a motorcycle accident lawyer and one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Robert began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.

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