What should you blame for slip-and-fall accidents due to icy premises: Raindrops, howling winds, or gravity?

What should you blame for slip-and-fall accidents due to icy premises: Raindrops, howling winds, or gravity?

If you answered all three, you’re wrong.

These natural forces don’t have a mind of their own, but humans do. And humans who fail to clear snow and ice on their premises (entrances, exits, sidewalks, walkways, parking lots, etc.) that cause slip-and-fall accidents are, under certain circumstances, to be blamed.

However, cases of this nature are rarely simple. In Washington and several other states, courts decide the outcome of a case based on the ground conditions of the property, the pedestrian’s knowledge of the iciness of the premises, the property owner’s knowledge of the dangers posed by their snowy property, and other crucial factors.

Here are three premises liability cases where a property owner was held liable, a snow and ice removal company was blamed, and it was (arguably) the freezing rain’s fault.

A Milwaukee Safeway’s unsafe sidewalk

In December 2012, Milwaukee resident David Walter Rodeman thought the shining sun and a passable but still frosty 32 degrees Fahrenheit weather were good enough conditions in which to do some grocery shopping.

But it still wasn’t completely safe out. When he stepped on ice on an uneven sidewalk near the store, he slipped and fell, fracturing his right wrist. This required two surgeries: one to implant metal plates and another to remove them.

He sued the store and the property owner Parker Properties for $50,000 for neglecting to remove the ice.

This is a simple premises liability case where a business knew of hazard-causing snow or ice on their premises yet failed to remove them. Many state laws require businesses to remove snow and ice that accumulated on their premises to keep customers and passersby safe.

The Safeway store should have known that customers aren’t expected to wear ice skates to feel safe in their establishment. And even if customers did wear skates as a precaution and fell, they could still sue. Incidentally, Safeway has been the subject of many slip-and-fall lawsuits involving injured customers who had an accident due to the store’s lack of safety measures.

The allegedly erring Portland ice removal company

For slipping in their icy parking lot, Dannette Bowers sued the Providence Surgery Center in Oregon and the ice removal company they hired. She sought $452,000 for her injured back and the ensuing pain and suffering, but the jury decided to award her $0. And we know you want to know why.

Providence Surgery Center’s fairly straightforward defense is that days before Ms. Bowers’ accident, they plowed the lot and de-iced the walkway that leads to their building. The fact that they hired an ice abatement company to clear ice on their premises simply worked in their favor.

In other words, the jury agreed with Providence’s defense that Ms. Bowers should have “looked out for her own safety.” This is vital information to Renton, Washington residents who get 20 inches of snow every year.

The unceasing freezing rain in Iowa

Iowa experiences severe winter weather conditions annually, but are icy premises always to blame for people slipping and falling?

In December 2009, Karen Rochford slipped and fell in a College Square Mall parking lot during freezing rain and brought suit against the property owner GK Development.

According to her suit, the company should have cleared the sidewalk of ice and that she should be awarded for damages. In cases similar to Ms. Rochford’s, the court won’t just consider the welfare of the plaintiff and may look at the situation more closely (for which the expertise of a personal injury attorney is needed).

The lawsuit was dismissed, with the judge citing the mall staff’s right to wait until the storm has passed before they remove the ice. Apparently, Ms. Rochford slipped during an ongoing freezing rain. According to the “continuing storm doctrine,” business owners have a responsibility to clear the snow within their premises, but they’re not required to do so during inclement weather.

Winter weather brings with it icy-premises lawsuits against businesses that fail to clean up Mother Nature’s mess. Renton personal injury attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams can represent both property owners and those who suffer injuries due to a negligent business owner’s glacial grounds.