Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stating the Obvious: A Snowy and Icy Surface Can Be Slippery

In his recent Opinion and Order in the Erie County premises liability case of Skalos v. Bonnell's Collision, No. 12979 - 2008 (C.P. Erie Co. April 13, 2012 Garhart, J.), Judge John Garhart granted the defendant summary judgment in a winter-time slip and fall action.

The court ruled that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment as the record showed that the plaintiff's fall occurred due to smooth and natural icy conditions in the defendant's parking lot.  The plaintiff admitted that the area was smooth and that she could not state how long the conditions existed prior to her fall.

The court determined that under the applicable hills and ridges doctrine, the law did not expect a property owner in the winter climate like Erie, Pennsylvania to keep its lot completely free of ice or slippery conditions. 

The defense also argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because the slippery conditions were open and obvious.  The court found that, since it had already ruled in favor of the defense on the hills and ridges doctrine, it need not decide this issue.

However, in dicta, the court went on to state, in no uncertain terms, that it should have been open and obvious to a seasoned resident of a very snowy city like Erie, Pennsylvania that a snowy area on a sloping walking surface might also be icy and, therefore, slippery.

I send thanks to the prevailing defense attorney, William C. Wagner, Esquire of the Erie, PA law firm of Marnen Mioduszewski Bordonaro Wagner & Sinnott, LLC for forwarding this case to my attention.

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

Source of Image: www.public.iastate.edu

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