Falls on icy or snowy sidewalks and parking lots happen all throughout winter. Many times, the property owner isn't negligent for simply allowing snow or ice to accumulate. Rather, under Pennsylvania law, someone who falls on snow/ice can prevail under two separate theories-Hills and Ridges or Isolated Patches of Ice. These theories require thorough investigation into the facts surrounding the fall and the property and it's vital to have someone document the conditions at or near the time of the fall.
A. HILLS AND RIDGES
In order to make out a case against a property owner under the Hills and Ridges doctrine, the injured person must prove 1) there were dangerous conditions due to hill/ridges or elevations and 2) the hills and ridges were allowed to remain for an unreasonable length of time, or were created by property owner's antecedent negligence.
This means that the ice/snow accumulated in such a way as to create hills and ridges on the sidewalk or parking lot. More importantly, there must be evidence that the conditions were allowed to remain for an unreasonable length of time. One day is generally not considered enough time.
In some situations, an injured person might be able to show that the property owner was negligent with respect to the property, creating a condition that became hazardous in icy/snowy conditions. A property owner may have knowledge of or create a defect on the property that contributes to abnormal accumulations of ice/snow. For example, if a property owner knows of or creates a situation where say, a gutter leaks excessively and that in the winter-when snow melts and refreezes, sheets of ice accumulate under the leaking gutter, that owner may be liable to someone who slips on that sheet of ice.
This doctrine generally applies when there has been recent, continuing inclement weather and general icy conditions in the community.
B. ISOLATED PATCHES OF ICE
In order to find liability for an isolated patch of ice, an injured person must show actual or constructive notice of the patch of ice. Constructive notice may be demonstrated by showing that the condition existed long enough for the owner to be charged with notice.
What this means is that the case will depend on whether there is evidence that the property owner knew or should have known about the isolated patch(s) of ice. Weather factors such as temperature and snow accumulation in the days before the fall are important to establish how long the patch of ice existed.
This doctrine generally applies when there hasn't been any continuing inclement weather in the area. If the area where the person fell is covered with snow/ice, this doctrine will not apply. For example, if a person walks across a parking lot which is covered with ice and snow, this doctrine does not apply. Instead this theory applies in situations where a person walks across a parking lot which is completely free of ice/snow, but falls on a single, isolated patch of ice.
Injuries from falls on ice or snow can be catastrophic and may include broken bones or serious head injury. If you or someone you love was injured as a result of a fall on ice or snow, contact the Pennsylvania and New Jersey experienced premises liability lawyers at White and Williams. We've handled many ice/snow cases and achieved much success. We serve accident victims in all areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and always offer a free consultation. 1-877-944-8396