Earlier this month, an appellate court in Wyoming issued an opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by the parents of a middle-school student who fell while playing on a patch of ice with friends. The court ultimately affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case, based on the fact that the allegedly hazardous condition that caused the boy’s fall was “obvious and natural” at the time of the accident. The fact that the school administration had applied snow-melt in the general area did not change the court’s analysis.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were the parents of a middle-school student who was playing on a patch of ice in the school parking lot with some friends when he slipped and fell, breaking a tooth and fracturing his nose. According to the facts as discussed in the court’s opinion, the patch of ice was large and noticeable. In the days before the accident, there were trace amounts of snow and rain.
After the accident, the boy’s parents filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school, arguing that it was negligent in allowing the ice to accumulate. Evidence presented showed that school employees cleared snow or ice from the parking lot daily and applied snow-melt when necessary.
Before trial, the school successfully moved for summary judgment, arguing that under state law, it should not be held liable for the natural accumulation of snow or ice on its premises. The plaintiffs appealed.
The plaintiffs’ main argument on appeal was that the school had altered the “natural” condition of the snow by applying snow-melt. The plaintiffs argued that once the snow-melt was applied, it resulted in the snow melting and then re-freezing, forming the patch of ice on which their son fell. The court declined to adopt the plaintiffs’ argument, explaining that, while the school did alter the natural state of the snow or ice, the plaintiffs failed to prove that applying the snow-melt made the condition worse in any way.
The court also explained that it was hesitant to impose liability on a party for applying snow-melt, since parties should be encouraged to take this kind of remedial action. As a result, the plaintiffs will not be permitted to continue forward with their lawsuit.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?
With the cold weather comes an increased danger posed by icy conditions. In most cases, landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is free from this type of hazard. If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Indiana slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled injury attorneys at the Indiana law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling premises liability cases across Indiana, and we are happy to meet with our prospective clients to discuss their cases free of charge. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation today.
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Permits Premises Liability Plaintiff’s Claim for Punitive Damages, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, February 1, 2017
Court Finds Plaintiff’s “Mere Speculation” in Premises Liability Case Insufficient to Survive Summary Judgment Challenge, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, February 22, 2017