Can an Injured Person Recover for a Slip and Fall that Occurred During a Snowstorm?
Maybe. The real question isn’t whether the slip and fall occurred during a snowstorm, but rather how long the snow and ice that caused the slip and fall had been present on the property.
It’s important to remember to establish a claim for “negligence” on the part of a landowner or business like a store or restaurant for your slip and fall, you must show that the duty of “reasonable care” was breached (not met).
This means the property owner must have actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) of the presence of the hazardous condition in order to be held liable. Schulz v. Kroger Co., 963 N.E.2d 1141, 1144 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).
This includes the knowledge snow and ice exists on the property and is potentially dangerous. A landowner simply cannot ignore snow and ice conditions and hope to avoid liability. Affirmative action must be taken -- a property owner has a general duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition – and this duty applies to the removal of natural accumulations of snow and ice. Hammond v. Allegretti, 262 Ind. 82, 311 N.E.2d 821 (1974).
But, what if the snow and ice accumulated as the result of a snowstorm on the date of the slip and fall? Can a landowner be responsible for a slip and fall during a snowstorm that causes an injury?
Well, Indiana courts seem to agree that a slip and fall that occurs during a snowstorm is probably not actionable and the landowner will not be held liable. For instance, in the case of Rising-Moore v. Red Roof Inns, Inc., 435 F.3d 813, 817 (7th Cir. 2006) a defendant hotel was found not liable where the injured person fell on snow and ice that had accumulated in the 5 to 20 minute period while he was checking in at the front desk and fell when he returned to his car.
The case was thrown out because the Court believed that no reasonable jury could have found the defendant hotel breached its duty of reasonable care to the injured visitor to clear snow and ice where the timeframe involved was mere minutes. In other words, a landowner must be presented an opportunity to remedy the hazardous condition on its property before it can be held liable.
In a similar decision (and one we disagree with very strongly in this highly technological age of social media and cell phones), the Indiana Court of Appeals threw out a case where a person was injured as a result of a slip and fall on snow and ice in an apartment complex parking lot at 6 a.m. The Court ruled that when the icy condition had occurred after midnight while the landlords and property managers were asleep, they were not given the opportunity to inspect their property and remedy the hazardous defect (icy condition). Orth v. Smedley, 177 Ind. App. 90, 378 N.E.2d 20 (1978). We here at Shaw Law believe this case would be decided differently were the same facts presented to today’s modern courts.
But, this begs the question – how long is too long to have snow and ice on the property before a landowner, like a hotel or store or restaurant, can be held liable when a visitor suffers a slip and fall and is injured on it?
Well, a 3-4 day period between the formation of an icy patch and the slip and fall of an injured person was held to be a sufficient amount of time to hold a business owner responsible for failing to clear an apartment complex’s common area when the injured party offered proof that the icy patches recurred over time and that complaints had been made about it prior to the fall. Bell v. Grandville Coop., Inc. 950 N.E.2d 747, 749 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).
Consequently, we now have cases that stand for the idea that 20 minutes (and 6 hours) is too short of time between the snow and ice accumulation that caused the slip and fall to a 3 to 4-day period being held sufficient to require the defendant to clean it up. (Remember, “constructive” knowledge does not require the Defendant landowner or hotel owner or store or restaurant must know of the specific ice patch that caused the fall, but rather they had an opportunity to do so).
The bottom line is this – slip and falls are difficult cases and you need an experienced Indiana slip and fall attorney who has handled 30+ years of “snow and ice slip and fall” cases. The investigation as to what the landowner or property did or did not do with regard to inspecting the snow and ice and what methods were used to remedy the hazardous condition is of vital importance to the success of your case.
If you've recently been hurt in a snow and ice slip and fall accident in Indiana, y might be eligible to pursue a liability claim against a property owner or manager if he or she was negligent in removing the snowy and icy hazards and failed to keep the property in a reasonable condition so as to avoid accidents.
Get straight answers at Shaw Law.
We get you back on your feet.