Let The Fact Finders Decide (PA)
In Daniel Spisak v. Advanced Auto Parts, Inc., Mr. Spisak brought a negligence claim against Advanced Auto Parts for failing to properly maintain its parking lot after a winter storm. On December 22, 2017, Mr. Spisak was dropping off a delivery of car batteries to an Advanced Auto Parts in Connecticut when he slipped and fell on an icy patch located in the company’s parking lot. Spisak sustained a number of serious injuries, including a broken arm which required the implementation of surgical hardware. To recovery medical expenses and lost wages, Spisak filed his “one-count Complaint” in which he “accused AAPI of negligent, careless, and/or unreasonable conduct in allowing dangerous conditions to remain on their property.” In the most recent filing associated with this case, Advanced Auto Parts filed a Motion for Summary Judgement, arguing it is entitled to a judgement in its favor as a matter of law.
The Court in Daniel Spisak v. Advanced Auto Part denied defendant’s motion, ruling that material facts remained in dispute and should be decided by a fact finder at trial. Because the accident occurred in Connecticut, but the case was venued in Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Court previously went through a conflict of law analysis determining which state law should apply. Under Connecticut law, the “Ongoing Storm Doctrine” applies, which states that a property owner “may await the end of a storm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing ice and snow outside walks and steps.” In Pennsylvania, “property owners have a duty to act within a reasonable time after notice of a dangerous accumulation of snow and ice…to remove such snow and ice.” The “Hills and Ridges doctrine” under Pennsylvania law requires plaintiffs in slip and fall cases to prove that snow and ice had “accumulated on the side walk in ridges or elevations of such size and character to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to pedestrians,” and that the property owner was on notice of such a condition. Even though the Court’s previous conflict-of-law analysis warranted that Connecticut law control the matter, material facts would be in dispute under either State’s law.
In short, because it was uncertain whether or not (1) Advanced Auto Parts employees were routinely inspecting the parking lot during and after the storm, (2) they were on notice of ice accumulation, and (3) the storm was active at the time of the fall, summary judgement was denied.
Thanks to Brian Zappala for his contribution to this post. Please contact Heather Aquino with any questions.