The Dangers of Backing Up Case
We represented a family with three small children who were on vacation in Myrtle Beach. The family was walking down a sidewalk that runs directly beside an amusement park. It was Saturday afternoon in the middle of June; the sidewalks were filled with other families on vacation, just like our clients. Their son was very interested in the roller coaster that was running above their heads as they walked on the sidewalk. He asked his mother if he could walk a few feet ahead so he could get a look at the roller coaster. Under the watchful eye of his parent, the young boy began crossing the driveway at one of the gate entrances. He was watching the roller coaster.
At the same time, the owner of several of the games operated within the amusement park was leaving the park after delivering inventory. Our client saw the reverse lights of the truck come on and screamed to the driver to stop as she ran towards her child. The truck did not stop. The bumper struck her son and knocked him down. Then, the back wheel of the driver’s side rolled over her son’s pelvis. As she was screaming to the driver, the driver pulled forward and ran over her son again. Our client and her two other children witnessed the entire event.
The issue in this case was who had the right of way. South Carolina Code Section 56-5-3250 provides: “The driver of a vehicle crossing a sidewalk shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and all other traffic on the sidewalk.” It was clear that the young boy had the right of way on the sidewalk, and witnesses testified that the impact took place on the sidewalk.
The driver knew that the best time to make a delivery was before the park opened on Saturdays at 1:00 pm. Before that time, the gate would have been open and he could have pulled his truck into the park. After 1:00 pm the gate was closed and he knew that he would be forced to park behind the gate and would then have to back over the sidewalk to leave.
Here’s the view looking toward the street. The truck had to back up between the two concrete poles into the street in order to exit the delivery area.
The driver knew that a Saturday afternoon in June would mean lots of children and families in the area; that the roller coasters would be running and that children would be distracted by the noises, sights and smells of the amusement park. The driver also knew that the truck had poor visibility, particularly when backing up. With all this knowledge, the driver arrived to drop off inventory at 2:00 pm on a Saturday when the gate was closed and the park was open to the public.
Below is the view out the back window of the truck, with the tailgate up and with the tailgate down. The man standing behind the truck is 5 ft 11 inches tall. The child was 3 ft 2 inches tall. In the second picture, you can just see the top of an orange cone in front of the man, which represents the height of the child.
We filed a wrongful death suit against the truck driver for failure to maintain a proper lookout and failure to exercise the appropriate standard of care when operating a vehicle, and successfully resolved the case on behalf of the family. Our experts testified that not only did the driver have a duty to yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk, but he also had a duty to warn that he was backing up. The driver knew that it would be difficult to see pedestrians as he was backing out of the driveway. Add to this that the driveway itself was dangerous because of a relatively blind position caused by large concrete columns. Our experts testified that a spotter would be needed to back out of this driveway; or at a minimum, the driver should have warned the public that he was backing up by sounding the horn several times. The truck driver did not have a spotter and he never sounded his horn or made any other warning that he intended to back up.
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