Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Pennsylvania Superior Court Rules That Failure to Pretreat a Surface Prior to Winter Storm Is Not a Basis to Impose Liability in a Slip and Fall Case

A Blizzard in Progress

In the case of Collins v. Phila. Sub. Devel., No. 2018 Pa. Super. 17 (Pa. Super. Jan. 31, 2018 Panella, J., Olson, J., Stevens, P.J.E.)(Op. by Stevens, P.J.E.), the court affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of a premises liability Defendant under the Hills and Ridges Doctrine where the evidence before the trial court confirmed that the winter storm, described in the record as a blizzard, was still active a the time of the Plaintiff's alleged slip and fall on ice and/or snow.

According to the Opinion, there was even a video of the Plaintiff's slip and fall in which it could be seen that it was still snowing at the time of the incident.  The trial court had concluded that no reasonable person viewing the video could conclude that the weather conditions at the time of the fall were anything other than a blizzard.

As generally slippery conditions were being created at the time of the Plaintiff's fall, the Superior Court agreed with the trial court's decision that the Hills and Ridges Doctrine defeated the Plaintiff's claim.

The decision is also notable for the court's ruling that the Defendant's alleged failure to pretreat a walking surface was not a basis upon which to impose liability under Pennsylvania law.

The court rejected the Plaintiff's efforts to assert that, under an exception to the Hills and Ridges Doctrine, the dangerous condition was created by the negligence of the landowner in failing to pretreat the surface with ice melt products prior to the anticipated storm.  The court found that this theory did not fall within the neglect of the defendant exception to the Hills and Ridges Doctrine.

The Collins referenced a prior Superior Court decision noting that there is no duty imposed to salt an area during a snowstorm or even immediately thereafter;  rather, the landowner is entitled to a reasonable time to take action.  See Op. at p. 12-13.  As such, the court found that Pennsylvania law does not impose any duty on landowners to pretreat surfaces in anticipation of an impending winter storm.

Anyone wishing to review this decision online, may click this LINK.

Source:  "Court Summaries" by Timothy Clawges in the Pennsylvania Bar News Vol. 28, No. 4 (Feb. 19, 2018)

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