Friday, February 21, 2020

Court Rules Hills and Ridges Doctrine Inapplicable

In the case of Dugans v. Concorde West, LLC., No. C-48-CV-2018-00612 (C.P. Northampton Co. Sept. 16, 2019 Roscioli, J.), the court denied a Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a winter slip and fall event.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was residing an apartment complex when a multi-day snowstorm took place in the area.

On the day after the storm ended, the Plaintiff ventured out and was clearing snow from around his vehicles that were parked on the property. After approximately one (1) hour of this work, the Plaintiff slipped and fell on a patch of ice that remained under a thin layer of snow around his vehicle.

The Plaintiff asserted in his lawsuit that this icy area was created by runoff water from gutters and downspouts on the Defendants’ property, which water was allowed to freeze when salt was not properly applied to the area.

The defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment relying, in part, on the hills and ridges doctrine and an argument that the alleged condition upon which the Plaintiff fell was an open and obvious condition and that the Plaintiff assumed the risk of injury while walking upon that surface.

In its Opinion, the court reviewed the law of the hills and ridges doctrine and emphasized that that doctrine is only applicable when the ice and snow at issue a result of an entirely natural accumulation.

In this case, the Plaintiff was alleging that the icy condition was caused by human negligence in the form of the gutters and downspouts that were allegedly improperly designed, constructed or maintained and which allowed water runoff to flow directly onto walkways.  As such, the court found that a jury could find that the hills and ridges doctrine did not apply.

The court also rejected the defense argument under the open and obvious doctrine by noting that the Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he could not see the ice and was unable to notice the ice that was under the snow.

Given these issues, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the defense was denied.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Linda Schick of the Doylestown, PA law firm of Naftulin & Shick for bringing this case to my attention and I send thanks to Attorney Edward Shaughnessy of Shaughnessy Law Office in Easton, PA for providing me with a copy of the same.

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