Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sheet of Ice is Not a Hill or Ridge of Ice or Snow

In their recent unpublished, "non-precedential" decision in the case of McLamb v. Supervalu, Inc., No. 2139 MDA 2013 (Pa. Super. Aug. 15, 2014 Shogan, J., Lazarus, J., Musmanno, J.)(Op. by Shogan, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of a Defendant landowner in a case involving an independent contractor who was allegedly injured after allegedly falling on ice and snow while returning the Defendant’s tractor to its lot after delivering goods.  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff picked up a trailer from the Defendant’s distribution center and delivered goods to Philadelphia before returning to the Harrisburg area, all under snowstorm conditions.   When the Plaintiff arrived back in Harrisburg, it was still snowing as he went to the Defendant’s lot to return the trailer.   After the Plaintiff parked the trailer in the designated spot, he got out and slipped and fell when he went to uncouple the lines from the trailer.  

The Defendant moved for summary judgment based upon the hills and ridges doctrine.

The court reviewed the law of the hills and ridges doctrine and emphasized that, under the test provided, the landowner was protected from liability for generally slippery conditions from ice and snow where the owner did not permit the ice and snow to unreasonably accumulate in ridges or elevations.  

The Plaintiff attempted to argue that genuine issues of material facts existed as to whether the conditions were caused naturally or were man-made.  The Plaintiff stated that the conditions that caused his fall may have been the result of heavy foot traffic from other loading and unloading trailers in the area.  

However, the court rejected that argument and indicated that the records establish that snow had been falling since the evening before the accident and it was clear that generally slippery conditions prevailed in the community such that the hills and ridges doctrine applied.  

The court also noted that Plaintiff’s testimony that the lot had not been plowed or salted and was covered due to the continuing snow fall showed nothing that would suggest any human intervention in the condition of the lot.  

Moreover, the court noted that the Plaintiff admitted that the area where he fell looked “like a sheet of ice.”   

Accordingly, the Superior Court ruled that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment and dismissing the Complaint.

Anyone wishing to review this unpublished, non-precedential decision may click this LINK.

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