As Oscar Wilde once observed, no good deed goes unpunished. Try to help someone and you often get grief in return.
The Pepperidge company made the mistake of renting a parking space in their Capitol Street lot in Charleston to Donna Cutright, who works at a government agency nearby. Last year, two days after Christmas, when the lot was full of ice and snow, Donna slipped and fell after parking her car in her rented space. She is now suing Pepperidge LLC, et al., seeking compensatory and punitive damages for their alleged negligence in failing to clear the lot.
Cutright cites a city ordinance mandating that property owners remove snow within three hours of its falling.
Surely, it's in a property owner's best interest to clear a parking lot as quickly as possible, so as not to inconvenience clients and customers and risk losing their patronage. By comparison, the city's mandate for speedy snow removal from private property offers minimal incentive for promptness and almost seems designed to fortify tort actions.
Had it been three hours since the snow had stopped falling? Was Pepperidge open for business yet? Did she have a reasonable expectation that the store would clear the lot before the earliest customer or worker arrival?
Did anyone else slip in the lot that morning, or was Cutright the only one with unsure footing?
And then there's the demand for punitive damages. Does Cutright honestly believe that Pepperidge purposely created a hazard for her?
The most interesting thing about this case is where Cutright works: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA.
You'd think a rational person would recognize that an ice-and-snow-covered parking lot presents a genuine hazard, but especially someone who works for OSHA.
Maybe Cutright just shares the antipathy for business so typical of OSHA and other government bureaucracies.