Monday, September 22, 2014

More Hills and Ridges (Actually, No Hills and Ridges - MSJ Granted)

In his recent Memorandum and Order in the case of Schraeder v. Phillips, No. 2011-CV-7585 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Sept. 10, 2014 O’Brien, S.J), Senior Judge Peter J. O’Brien (formerly a member of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas) granted summary judgment in favor of a Defendant landowner and dismissed a Plaintiff’s Complaint under an application of the hills and ridges doctrine.  

According to the Opinion, at the time of her slip and fall, the Plaintiff was a residential tenant of the Defendant’s at a property in Scranton, Pennsylvania.   The Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that she slipped and fell due to hills and ridges of snow and ice while on a designated walkway on the premises.  

In his Opinion, Judge O’Brien reviewed the records and noted that, during her deposition, the Plaintiff described the ice on the steps as appearing as if it “froze like a sheet.”   The court also pointed out that the Plaintiff stated that there were no footstep marks on the ice or any salt on the steps where she fell.  

Judge O’Brien also held that Pennsylvania law did not impose liability upon a possessor of land for physical harm caused by a condition on the land if it is reasonable for the possessor to believe that the condition would be obvious to and discovered by an invitee.   See Op. at p. 5 citing Carrender v. Fitterer, 469 A.2d 120, 124 (Pa. 1983).  The court noted that the Plaintiff’s testimony confirmed that, at the time of her fall, it was sleeting which, in the court’s Opinion, caused an obvious condition of iciness.   Judge O’Brien additionally noted that the Plaintiff’s admission during her deposition testimony indicated that she appreciated the risk when she stepped outside into the adverse weather conditions.  

In any event, as noted above, the court also found that the Plaintiff failed to meet the mandates of the hills and ridges doctrine by failing to show that snow and/or ice had accumulated on the walkway in elevations of such size in character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to the pedestrian traveling thereon which conditions the property owner had actual or constructive notice.  

Finding that there were no genuine issues of material fact to be decided by a jury on the issues presented, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants and dismissed the Plaintiff’s Complaint.  

I send thanks to the prevailing defense attorney, John R. Shaffer, Esquire of the Doylestown, Pennsylvania law firm of Snyder & Shaffer, for forwarding this Opinion to my attention.  


Anyone wishing to secure a copy of Judge O’Brien’s Opinion in this Lackawanna County hills and ridges case, may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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