Man injured in parking lot fall awarded more than $4M

A Charleston County judge upheld a more than $4 million jury award in a injury lawsuit involving a city parking lot on the peninsula.

The city lot on George Street, between Meeting and King streets, is where North Carolina resident Robert J. Burke parked while in town to see a College of Charleston basketball game two years ago. He tripped on a barrier while walking between parked cars and fell — due to poor lighting — and sustained serious injuries that resulted in lengthy hospitalization and a knee replacement, according to his lawyer.

“He had external and internal bleeding,” said Jamie Khan, one of the lawyers with McCullough Khan who represented Burke. “The massive amounts of blood loss led to kidney failure.”

“He’s never been the same since the accident,” Khan said. “He was hospitalized for well over a month, then needed home health services.”

Burke and his wife, Jane, sued the city, a business that leases a portion of the parking lot property to the city, and Republic Parking Systems, which at the time managed the lot under city contract.

The city settled for $300,000, Indigo Realty settled for $10,000, and a jury in December decided Republic Parking is liable for $4,005,125.

On Thursday Charleston County Circuit Court Judge R. Markley Dennis, ruled on the last outstanding post-trial motions, upholding the verdict and setting the stage for a likely appeal.

A lawyer for Republic had sought to have the jury award reduced by the amount of the settlements with the city and Indigo Realty, $310,000. In prior motions Republic’s lawyer, Roopal Ruparelia with Hayns-worth Sinkler Boyd, argued that the city, not the parking lot manager, was responsible for the condition of the lot.

“The city designed the parking lot in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the city paid all the expenses for the parking lot, the city continued to inspect and control the property, and Republic had no ability to change anything about the parking lot under the agreement (with the city),” Ruparelia wrote.

She could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The allegedly poor lighting of the parking lot was a key issue in the case.

“Our expert testified that the level of lighting was a tenth of the industry standard, and darker than a darkened movie theater would be,” Khan said.

Republic’s contract to manage the city’s parking lots and garages expired in mid-2013, and the city hiring ABM Parking Services.

Both Republic and ABM are national parking-management companies.

In an emailed statement Friday, Barbara Vaughn, Charleston’s director of media relations, said the George Street lot “met all applicable standards when the lot was designed and constructed in 1978 and there has been no change in the design and construction since that time or as required by law. The City will undertake a review of the lighting that was at issue in this lot.”

When the most recent court orders are filed, Republic will have a 30-day window to file an appeal.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552