Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Summary Judgment Entered Under Hills and Ridges Doctrine in Lawrence County Slip and Fall Case


In his recent decision in the case of Heichel v. Smith Paving and Construction Company, PICS Case No. 14-2058 (C.P. Lawrence Co. Oct. 15, 2014 Cox, J.), Judge J. Craig Cox granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant landowner and snow removal company after finding that the Plaintiff failed to establish a valid case for negligence in that the Plaintiff failed to prove a causal relationship between the Plaintiff’s fall and the snow or ice the Plaintiff alleged was allowed to unreasonably accumulate upon a parking lot surface.  

According to the summary of the Opinion, the Plaintiff failed to explain whether the parking lot, including the immediate area of her fall, was actually covered with snow or ice.  The Plaintiff was also unable to recall many of the details from the incident including what type of shoes she was wearing or what time the fall occurred.   She also could not state the cause of her fall.  

The Defendants filed a summary judgment motion arguing that the Plaintiff was unable to establish the cause of her fall and was unable to demonstrate that any snow or ice had accumulated in ridges or elevations of such size as to unreasonably obstruct travel and create a dangerous condition as required by the Hills and Ridges Doctrine.   The trial court agreed with the defense position.  

The court noted that testimony suggested that there were generally slippery conditions in the parking lot that were caused by a sudden change in the weather.   The only testimony with regard to ice in the parking area was provided by one of the Plaintiff’s co-workers, who described the entire parking lot as being a sheet of ice due to a sudden change in the weather conditions.  

Moreover, there was no specific information or testimony regarding the conditions in the very specific area where the Plaintiff allegedly fell.  

In addition to granting summary judgment in favor of the landowner, the court also granted summary judgment in favor of Smith Paving, who performed snow removal services on the premises.   The court concluded that, since there was no evidence concerning the condition of the area where the Plaintiff fell, there was no evidence to support any reasonable inference that any icy conditions on the lot were due to the negligence by or improper procedures utilized by Smith Paving.  

As such, summary judgment motions filed by both Defendants were granted.  

Source: "Digest of Recent Opinions" in Pennsylvania Law Weekly.  Call Instant Case Service at Pennsylvania Law Weekly at 1-800-276-7427 and pay a small fee to secure a copy.

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