Monday, January 13, 2020

Judge Gelb of Luzerne County Enters Summary Judgment in Black Ice Slip and Fall Case

In the case of Sterba v. North End Heritage Parking Co-Ops, LLC, No. 2017-074 (C.P. Luz. Co. Sept. 24, 2019 Gelb, J.), the court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by North End Heritage Parking in a slip and fall case involving black ice in a parking lot.

According to the Opinion, snow squalls had occurred earlier in the day of the accident. By the time the Plaintiff got to the parking lot in question later than evening, her car did not skid or encounter any ice or snow. Additionally, the Plaintiff admitted that she did not see any ice or snow on the ground when she got out of her vehicle. 

After slipping and falling, the Plaintiff discovered a patch of black ice under her. She had to slide herself back two (2) arm lengths off of the icy area in order to be able to stand. 

The Plaintiff admitted that she did not know how long the patch of ice was on the parking lot surface before she fell. 

The record otherwise indicated that the snow that had fallen earlier in the day had been plowed and pushed against the back of the lot. 

The record also noted that the patches of black ice were concentrated towards drains in the back of the parking lot as melting snow from earlier in the day had moved towards the drains and the water had refroze. 

After reviewing the current status of Pennsylvania law regarding the duties owed by a possessor of land, the court held that, given that there was no evidence of the length of time in which the icy patches had existed prior to the Plaintiff’s fall, the Plaintiff could not sustain their burden of proof.
In a footnote, Judge Gelb notably indicated that “[i]ce is more akin to a transitory spill than to a semi-permanent condition of land because it can develop suddenly and even melt in a short period of time depending on environmental conditions.” 

In light of this finding, the court stated that it was “inconsequential to the issue of constructive notice that Plaintiff saw the black ice immediately after her fall as no one saw the ice prior to the fall and the duration of its existence in the parking lot cannot be determined on this record.” See fn. 2. 

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

I send thanks to Attorney William P. Cech of the Wilkes-Barre, PA law offices of Robert T. Panowicz & Associates for bringing this case to my attention.

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