A few days after the two-day snowstorm dubbed “snowmegaddon,”a woman (plaintiff) slips on re-freezing snow and sustains injuries. The plaintiff and her husband were walking through a shopping center parking lot while taking their two small dogs to visit a pet store. The plaintiff slipped on black ice formed when melting snow re-froze.
Performing their job of maintaining the shopping center parking lot, the defendant company pushed show from this snowstorm into large piles created in numerous parts of the parking lot. The snowstorm occurred on January 22 and 23. The plaintiff’s fall occurred on the evening of January 27. The pile of snow at issue in this incident was situated on a slight angle. Thus, as the snow melted and drained away from the pile of snow, it drained across the crosswalk. When the temperature dropped, the water (melted snow) re-froze,creating a patch of black ice.
The plaintiff’s fall resulted in serious fractures of her ankles. These injuries required open surgery to place hardware to close the fractures. Plaintiff then developed post-operative infection, which was treated with oral and intravenous antibiotics. A second surgical procedure was necessary to remove the hardware. In addition, plaintiff endured several debridements and skin grafting in order to close the site after surgery.
The issue at the center of this matter was liability for the condition of the parking lot and, hence, for the plaintiff’s fall and injuries.Plaintiff’s legal team called upon the leading liability expert on snow and ice removal, John Allin. Allin held that the firm responsible for maintaining the parking lot was not negligent in piling snow in areas in addition to the designated snow pile locations (due to the unusually heavy snow). The firm(defendants) were negligent in not moving these snow piles in a timely manner after the snowstorm. Allin also argued that the defendants were also negligent in not pre-treating the parking lot near the snow pile when the weather forecast was for a drop in temperature below the freezing mark on the night of the incident.
Plaintiff claimed medical expenses of $191,500. There was no claim for lost wages. The case was settled (out of court) approximately one week prior to the scheduled trial date. The settlement for the plaintiff was$400,000. This settlement was paid partly by the owner of the parking lot and partly for the parking lot maintenance company.
This case offers a couple of takeaways.
First, when walking near piles of snow after a snowstorm, we need to be particularly careful and attentive for patches of black ice. Unless the pavement dries completely during or after melting, we should expect that a drop in temperature will cause refreezing.
Second, property owners and their tenants are responsible for the safe condition of parking lots, sidewalks, etc. after snowstorms. If we fail to remove snow and ice from the premises, we will be liable for any injuries sustained by a visitor on the premises.
If you or a love one is harmed due to the negligence of a property owner or those responsible to maintain it adequately, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries and medical costs. If you need legal advice or legal representation in a premises liability case, call Altizer Law, P.C. in Roanoke,VA. Bettina Altizer is a disciplined, compassionate, and aggressive advocate for the rights of plaintiffs. She and her team will work with you to build a case for the largest possible compensation.