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Pennsylvania Snow/Ice Slip and Fall-Legal Update

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Julia Lee
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Pennsylvania Snow/Ice Case Update: What is the Law When Someone Other Than the Property Owner Performs Snow/Ice Removal?

Recent Decision: December 19, 2011 Mears v. Saidi, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil Trial Division

Just two months ago, a Philadelphia County court addressed the status of the law in Pennsylvania with respect to slip and falls due to snowy/icy conditions.

In Mears v. Saidi, the court discussed the evidence which the plaintiff produced at trial and whether it was enough to hold the defendant store owners liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. 

Plaintiff testified that the sidewalk in front of defendant’s premises was lumpy, and that snow had fallen days prior to the accident.  This was enough evidence to find the defendant property owner liable for failing to remove snow/ice from its storefront sidewalk.

In this case the defendants were the owners of a storefront, a husband and wife.  The husband was responsible for snow/ice removal.  In applying a well-established principle of premises liability law in Pennsylvania, known as “gratuitous undertaking”, the court found in favor of the plaintiff.

The gratuitous undertaking principle: one who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another which he should recognize as necessary for the protection of a third person or his things, is subject to liability to the third person for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care to protect his undertaking, if (a) his failure to exercise reasonable care increases the risk of such harm, or (b) he has undertaken to perform a duty owed by the other to the third person, or (c) the harm is suffered because of reliance of the other or the third person upon the undertaking.  Restatement 2nd of Torts, Section 324A. 

According to the gratuitous undertaking principle, as discussed in the Mears case, the party who performs snow/ice removal for a landowner can be sued in addition to the landowner.  So, a husband who does the snow/ice removal, a private company or contractor or another individual could be additional defendants.  The gratitious principle rule could conceivably apply to a situation where a neighbor agrees to remove snow/ice for an elderly neighbor, but fails to do it properly.  If a pedestrian is injured on the elderly neighbor’s sidewalk, then the neighbor could be liable. 

For more information about Pennsylvania slip and fall law, read our free legal article on defective premises in Pennsylvania.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to a snow/ice slip and fall, our Philadelphia area slip and fall lawyers will review your case and discuss your options with you.  Call now for your free, no obligation consultation.  877.944.8396

Category: Premises Liability

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