What’s my recourse if my car has been damaged by a pothole in a private parking lot?

Recently I was driving in our mall parking lot when I hit a very large pothole. My’s car’s drivetrain was subsequently damaged, and I contacted the mall management. The lot is owned by a department store and is therefore a private lot not subject to municipal law. In my state, public road authorities are culpable for damages if they’ve been notified of potholes and have not repaired them within 24 hours, but I’m not sure if any such statutes exist on private land. I’d like to know before I go to the store requesting compensation.

Asked on August 14, 2012 under Accident Law, Maine


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Private property owners are liable for damage done by conditions on their property if they were aware, or reasonably should have been aware (i.e. it's almost impossible to see how they would not be aware) of the condition and, being aware, it would be negligent, or unreasonably careless, to not correct the problem. Therefore, it is certain possible, potentially even likely (depending on the specific facts--how large a pothole? where located? how obvious? when did it develop? etc.) that you could hold them liable for the damage to your car.

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