Friday, September 27, 2019

Hills and Ridges Doctrine Protects Snow Removal Contractor From Liability

In the non-precedential case of Hare v. Zaffino, No. 1349 WDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Aug. 28, 2019 Bender, J., Dubow, J., and Ford Elliot, P.J.E.) (Op. by Dubow, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a trial court’s Opinion that the hills and ridges doctrine shielded a snow removal company from liability.  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff fell after slipping in 5-6 inches of snow in an unplowed area of an industrial complex that had contracted the Defendant’s company to clear the snow. 

The Opinion noted that record confirmed that it was still snowing at the time of the incident.  

Under the hills and ridges doctrine, the Plaintiff might prove that the snow had accumulated in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to pedestrians, and that the property owner had notice, either actual or constructive, or that condition, and that it was that dangerous accumulation of snow or ice that caused the Plaintiff to fall.  

The Plaintiff argued that, under the applicable contract, the snow removal contractor had an increased duty of care that rendered the hills and ridges doctrine inapplicable.

The court found that the snow removal agreement did not impose any general duty upon the snow removal contractor and that the hills and ridges doctrine therefore applied.  

The Court also rejected the Plaintiff's contention that the hills and ridges doctrine did not apply to the snow removal contractor because he was not the owner of the land where the Plaintiff fell.

As noted, the court found that summary judgment was appropriate under that doctrine.

If anyone wishes to review a copy of this Decision may click this LINK.

Source: Article: “Court: ‘Hills and Ridges’ Doctrine Shields Snow Removal Company from Suit” by P.J. D’Annunzio of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Sept. 3, 2019).

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