In a September 2023, ruling, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed summary judgment in a slip and fall case involving “generally slippery” conditions. Plaintiff slipped and fell because of an unsafe ‘accumulation of ice and snow in the parking lot.’” <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Grace-v.-Graystone-Court-Villas-LLC.pdf">Grace v. Graystone Court Villas LLC</a>,</em> No. 1208 WDA 2022, 2023 WL 5950946. Despite the fact that Grace was a business invitee at the time of her fall, and that “Graystone was responsible for exercising reasonable care in maintaining the property,” ultimately “generally slippery conditions existed at the time of [Grace's] fall[,] and[,] hence[,] the [“]hills and ridges doctrine[”] applies and precludes the instant liability action against [Graystone].”
Grace attempted to argue that because the area where the slip and fall occurred was “an isolated patch of ice that was located behind her vehicle” instead of a generally slippery condition, and because Grayson “negligently allowed ice to accumulate in a particular spot of the parking lot of the premises” that the patch of ice was not “entirely natural, but, rather, due to the plowing and salting that occurred around. The appeal was denied on precedent that “to recover following a fall on a snow or ice-covered surface, a plaintiff must demonstrate: “(1) that snow and ice had accumulated on the sidewalk in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to pedestrians travelling thereon; (2) that the property owner had notice, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such condition; (3) that it was the dangerous accumulation of snow and ice which caused the plaintiff to fall. [T]he only duty upon the property owner or tenant is to act within a reasonable time after notice to remove [the snow and ice] when it is in a dangerous condition.”
This decision is a good reminder that a property owner, or person in possession, is not necessarily liable for a slip and fall due to snow and ice conditions. Attention MUST be paid to the circumstances at the time of the fall, and establishing that a generally icy condition, through testimony or otherwise, as opposed to an isolated and insular patch of ice or snow, can be the cornerstone for the defense.
Thanks to Ryan Hunsicker for his assistance with this article. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact <a href="firstname.lastname@example.org">Tom Bracken</a>.