Thursday, December 27, 2018

No Liability for Slip and Fall that Occurs During Snowstorm

In the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas case of Smith v. Riverside Rehab Center, No. 1146 - CV -2017 (C.P. Monroe Co. Oct. 9, 2018 Zulick, J.), the court found that the Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence in this slip and fall matter given that the hills and ridges doctrine served to prevent the Plaintiff’s recovery and since the Plaintiff provided no expert medical opinion on the issue of causation.   

The Plaintiff allegedly fell when he slipped while walking up a ramp to the entrance of the Riverside Rehabilitation Center.  

After discovery, the Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting, in part, that they were entitled to summary judgment based upon the hills and ridges doctrine.   

The court reiterated general rule of law that, under the hills and ridges doctrine, landowners are protected from liability for generally slippery conditions resulting from snow and ice where the owner has not permitted the snow and ice to unreasonably accumulate in ridges or elevations.  

Judge Arthur L. Zulick
Monroe Co.
In this matter, Judge Zulick found that liability was not established under the hills and ridges doctrine. The record revealed that a severe snowstorm had begun as the Plaintiff traveled to the Riverside Rehabilitation Center.   Evidence presented to the court indicated that the snowstorm was continuing when the Plaintiff arrived at the center and slipped and fell while going into the center.  

As such, the court found that the record established that there was no evidence presented which otherwise indicated that any of the Defendants allowed hills or ridges or snow or ice to unreasonably accumulate.   To the contrary, the court found that the case presented as involving a slippery ramp created by an ongoing storm.  As such, summary judgment was granted on this basis.

The Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment was also granted on the basis that the Plaintiff failed to provide a report by a medical expert on the issue of causation.   The court had previously directed the Plaintiff to produce a medical expert report, which the Plaintiff failed to do.  

The court agreed with the defense contention that the Plaintiff was unable to prove factual causation of the injuries allegedly sustained as a result of the slip and fall event.  In this matter, the Plaintiff had a complicated history of both pre-existing and subsequent injuries.   One of the subsequent incidents occurred only two (2) weeks after the subject slip and fall event.   The Plaintiff had allegedly struck his head in both the subject slip and fall incident as well as during the subsequent accident a few weeks after the slip and fall event.  

Moreover, the defense produced a report from the Plaintiff’s doctor indicating that the Plaintiff’s alleged trauma was related to the injuries sustained during the Plaintiff's more recent incident.  

The record also revealed that the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident approximately two (2) months after the slip and fall event.   Other evidence showed that, in the following year, the Plaintiff sustained yet another head injury.  

Given this complicated medical history, the court concluded that the Plaintiff was required to produce expert medical testimony to prove causation with respect to the injuries alleged to have resulted from the slip and fall event at the Riverside Rehabilitation Center.   The court noted that the Plaintiff did not comply with the court’s Case Management Order requiring the production of a medical expert report within a certain deadline and the Plaintiff offered no excuse for failing to do so.

Based upon these reasons, the court granted the summary judgment motion.  

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

Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Nov. 13, 2018).  

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