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Never Too Early To Start Thinking About Snow (PA)

October 9, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently reversed an order granting summary judgment in favor of Albright College, in <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Lopez-v.-Albright-College.pdf">Lopez v. Albright College.</a></em> The Court explored the duty of landowners to individuals who slip and fall on their property due to ice and snow accumulations.  The Court reaffirmed that the hills and ridges doctrine may only be applied in cases where the snow and ice that caused the slip and fall were entirely natural.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On March 13-14, 2017, a total of 16 to 18 inches of snow fell on Albright College’s campus and the surrounding areas.  From the early morning hours of March 14 to March 15, Albright’s grounds crew performed snow removal.  This included shoveling snow and salting sidewalks.  While walking down a main thoroughfare through Albright, the plaintiff slipped and fell on the sidewalk due to a patch of ice.  Lopez argued that the patch of ice that she fell on was caused by Albright’s negligence by allowing the snow to refreeze after the first attempts to remove it from the sidewalks.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Albright argued that the hills and ridges doctrine should apply and absolve the school of Lopez’s injury.  The hills and ridges doctrine excuses landowners of injuries that occur on their property when it would be nearly an impossible burden to fully clear walkways of ice and snow.  However, this doctrine may only be applied in cases where the snow and ice are entirely the result of natural causes following a snowfall.  In reversing the lower court's ruling, the appellate division ruled that Albright's interaction with the snow could have possibly caused the sidewalk’s conditions, resulted in not entirely natural accumulation.  Therefore, the appellate division found that the school was not entitled to summary judgment, as there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the doctrine could apply.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Nicholas Wright for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:gcoats@wcmlaw.com">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.</p>

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