In the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case of Creoruska v. Burger King, No. 1880 EDA 2016 (C.P. Phila. Co. Aug. 15, 2016 Anders J.), the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of a property owner after finding that the owner is not liable for a slip and fall that occurred on newly fallen snow and ice. The court ruled that liability was precluded under an application of the Hills and Ridges Doctrine.
According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff alleged that, when she arrived at a Burger King restaurant, it had begun to snow but accumulation was very light. By the time the Plaintiff left the restaurant, the snow had accumulated several inches. As the Plaintiff was walking through the snow to her car in the parking lot, the Plaintiff fell near the curb between the sidewalk and the lot.
The court ruled that, under the Hills and Ridges Doctrine, the property owner was not liable for slip and fall accidents caused by the accumulation of snow and ice creating generally slippery conditions, unless the owner had unreasonably permitted the snow and ice to accumulate into “hills and ridges” that created a substantial obstacle to travel.
Here, there was no testimony of any hills and ridges in the parking lot because the snow was still falling at the time of the incident and had only accumulated a few inches.
The court also ruled that the Defendant was entitled to summary judgment because, even if there were hills and ridges creating an obstacle to her path, Plaintiff could still not identify what caused her to fall. The court felt that allowing the case to proceed would invite the jury to impermissibly speculate as to the cause of the Plaintiff’s fall.
The trial court also ruled that the third party snow removal contractor’s snow removal contract did not impose liability upon that Defendant despite the Hills and Ridges Doctrine.
The court distinguished this matter from cases where the liability was imposed upon a snow removal contractor because the contract mandated treatment prior to the snow fall.
Here, there was no contractual duty upon the snow removal contractor to undertake any pre-treatment measures prior to the snowfall. Rather, the contract only called for the contractor to remove snow after it had fallen.
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Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (December 6, 2016)