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Premises Liability Claim on Thin Ice Loses on Summary Judgment Motion (PA)

November 20, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently decided a classic wintertime slip and fall case. In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Deissler-v.-Holy-Redeemer-Health-System.pdf">Deissler v. Holy Redeemer Health System</a><a href="http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/j-a24019-19m%20-%2010420936686515733.pdf#search=%22deissler %27Superior%2bCourt%27%22"></a>,</em> Plaintiff was visiting her husband at defendant Holy Redeemer Hospital in January 2014. When she arrived at the hospital, the ramp at the entrance she used did not have any snow or ice accumulation. However, as she left the hospital, a block of ice had formed on the ramp. Plaintiff saw the ice and was warned by her daughter and sister to be careful. She held onto the railing as she descended toward her car. However, plaintiff slipped and sustained injuries to her shoulder.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Plaintiff filed suit against the hospital. The defendant Hospital filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it did not breach a duty to plaintiff and the ice was an “open and obvious” condition. Hospital also argued that there was no evidence to demonstrate notice of the ice condition on the ramp.  The motion was granted. Before the Superior Court was the plaintiff’s appeal on the grounds that summary judgment was improper and that the defendant owed her the highest duty of care as an invitee to the hospital.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Ultimately, the court was not persuaded by plaintiff’s arguments. The Court reasoned that by her own statements and statements by others present, the icy condition was in fact open and obvious to her. Additionally, there were other exits that plaintiff could have chosen. The court rejected the argument that defendant breached its duty to plaintiff as an invitee.  A landowner has a heightened duty to protect invitee. However, that is not the case if the condition is known and obvious to the invitee unless the landowner anticipates harm to the plaintiff despite the obvious nature. The landowner would have to know or discover the dangerous condition, expect that the invitee would not discover it, and fail to use reasonable care in protecting the invitee from the condition.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Clearly, the above criteria was not the case in this matter. As previously stated, plaintiff knew of the icy condition, there was no indication that the hospital had notice of the condition, and plaintiff could have chosen a different path to exit the hospital. Therefore, the Superior Court affirmed the decision of the lower court.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Gabrielle Outlaw for her contribution to this post.  Please e-mail <a href="mailto:vterrasi@wcmlaw.com">Vincent Terrasi</a> with any questions.</p>

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