Eastern District of Pennsylvania Grants Summary Judgment, Finding Hills and Ridges Doctrine Shields Landowner from Liability (PA)
In David v. Walmart Stores, on March 2, 2018, the plaintiff was shopping at a Walmart store and fell, at approximately 3:00 pm, while walking back to her car. The plaintiff attributed her fall to the snowy and icy conditions in the parking lot. By way of brief background, on March 2, there was a Winter Weather Advisory for light rain / snow from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and snow / heavy snow from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The plaintiff subsequently brought a negligence action against Walmart for its alleged failure to properly maintain the parking lot. Walmart thereafter moved for summary judgment.
In coming to its decision, whether to grant summary judgment, the Court looked to the Hills and Ridges Doctrine, which protects landowners from liability where they have not allowed snow and/or ice to unreasonably accumulate. Pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Hills and Ridges Doctrine, “a landowner has no duty to correct or take reasonable measures with regard to storm-created snowy or icy conditions until a reasonable time after the storm has ceased.” Collins v. Philadelphia Suburban Dev. Corp., 179 A.3d 69, 76 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2018) (emphasis added). All parties agreed that there were slippery conditions when the plaintiff fell. However, the Court noted that when the plaintiff slipped, it was actively snowing. Therefore, under Pennsylvania’s Hills and Ridges Doctrine, Walmart was not required to ensure its parking lot was snow and/or ice free until after the winter weather event had concluded. As such, the Court granted Walmart’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
This case demonstrates that mere allegations of snowy and/or icy conditions alone do not create automatic liability. Rather, in determining liability, Pennsylvania Courts will take into account whether it was snowing at the time of a plaintiff’s fall. This doctrine is extremely valuable to landowners given Pennsylvania’s propensity for harsh winters.
Thanks to Rachel Thompson for her contribution to this post. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Colleen Hayes.