An Indiana Business Owner’s Duty to Clear Snow and Ice Hazards

All landowners, especially business owners, owe a duty of care to keep their property safe for those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends on the relationship between the landowner and the visitor, but as a general rule, the highest duty is owed to someone who visits for business purposes, i.e., a customer.

Gas PumpWhen a business owner fails to take adequate precautions to ensure safe premises, they may be liable for a visitor’s injuries through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. However, a landowner’s duty is not absolute, and there are limitations. For example, in a recent case, an appellate court determined that a gas station was not required to continually clear ice that formed during a freezing rain storm and was able to wait until the storm subsided to begin clean-up efforts.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was a shuttle driver for a retirement community. On a freezing, rainy day, the plaintiff pulled into the defendant gas station to fill the shuttle up with gas. However, as the plaintiff stepped out of the shuttle, he slipped on ice that had formed during the storm.

Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, but a few moments before he fell, a gas station employee had also slipped on the ice. Immediately after the employee slipped, she called management and arranged to have the ice cleared by a third-party snow-removal company. Of course, the third party had not yet arrived to clear the ice before the plaintiff’s fall.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the gas station, arguing that it was negligent in failing to clear the ice. The gas station responded to the plaintiff’s case by claiming that under the “continuing storm doctrine,” it was entitled to wait until the storm had passed to clear the ice.

The court agreed with the gas station and affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s lawsuit. In so holding, the court also affirmed the continued application of the continuing storm doctrine. The court also approved the application of the doctrine to the plaintiff’s case, despite the fact that the doctrine traditionally applied in cases involving large amounts of snowfall. The court was not convinced that the distinction warranted a different analysis, finding that ice caused by freezing rain was similar to fallen snow.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling a wide range of Indiana personal injury cases, and they know what it takes to be successful on behalf of their clients. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.

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Court Discuses Requirements for Admissibility of Expert Testimony in Recent Product Liability Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 17, 2018