Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lackawanna County Summary Judgment Motion on Hills and Ridges Doctrine Denied

In the recent hills and ridges decision in the case of Evans v. Simrell, No. 14-CV-2483 (C.P. Lacka.  Co. Oct. 4, 2018 Nealon, J.), the court denied the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment after finding that genuine issues of material fact existed to be determined by a jury.  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff alleged that he fell on ice that was in front of the Defendant’s home on the sidewalk.   The Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that the Plaintiffs could not sustain his burden of proving that he slipped and fell on hills and ridges of ice situated on the sidewalk.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was walking down the sidewalk which was shoveled and free of any ice near the Defendant’s premises.  However, as soon as the Plaintiff’s stepped on the sidewalk in front of the Defendant’s property, he slipped and fell on ice.    The Plaintiff telephoned his mother who came to the scene and likewise observed that the nearby sidewalks were clear and free of snow or ice.   The mother testified that, as soon as she reached the Defendant’s sidewalk, she started to slide on the ice and had to grab the hedges to prevent herself from falling to the ground.  

The Plaintiff’s mother called 911 to request an ambulance.   According to the information provided to the court, when the paramedics arrived, one of the paramedics also slid and fell on the subject sidewalk as well as the paramedics were also slipping on the ice.  

In opposing the summary judgment motion, the Plaintiffs asserted that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Plaintiff was caused to fall on a localized patch of ice as opposed to as a result of generally slippery conditions existing in the area.  

In this regard, the court noted that there were triable issues of fact as to whether general slippery conditions existed throughout the community. 

More specifically, both the Plaintiff and his mother testified that other areas of sidewalk near the Defendant’s property were shoveled and free of snow and ice.   According to the record, one of the responding paramedics also noted that there was no ice present on the abutting road and adjacent grass, and that he only observed ice on the Defendant’s sidewalk.  

Judge Nealon ruled that it was within the sole province of the jury to resolve this conflicting testimony and to determine the weight, if any, to be accorded to these varying accounts.  

Given these issues of fact, the court denied the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment based upon the hills and ridges doctrine.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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