How the failure to clear an icy parking lot results in a civil lawsuit
Feb 14, 2020 | 6761 views | 0 0 comments | 564 564 recommendations | email to a friend | print

During the winter season, it is hard to forget that this is the time of the year when the temperature starts dropping.  We are also reminded how this time of the year also brings with it snow and icy conditions.  While we may be excited to start heading to the shopping malls, unfortunately the weather changes bring dangerous conditions that we need to be aware of.  While we would want to think that shopping malls want their parking lots adequately cleaned so they are safe for customers ready to start their holiday shopping, accidents occur often.  

Shoppers heading to the malls have gotten seriously injured when they slip and fall on ice left on the parking lot.  In a recent case involving a slip and fall, a shopping center customer was walking in a parking lot when she fell on a patch of ice.   The woman sued the shopping center’s owner, property manager and two tenants who shared use of the parking lot area where the woman fell.  A property manager is typically responsible for overseeing the operation of the shopping mall, which can include making sure the premises are maintained in a safe manner.  

In response, the property owner, managing agent, and tenants claimed they were not made aware of the icy condition in the parking lot.  In New York, a property owner is generally considered responsible for the maintenance and inspection of premises, or in this case, a shopping mall.  To avoid responsibility for slip and fall accidents, the owner must show it was not notified of the dangerous condition that resulted in a person’s injuries.  This can be “actual notice”, such as an employee visually observing ice on the parking lot.  This can also be “constructive notice” where the icy or slippery condition existed for a long-enough time that the person responsible for inspecting the premises would become aware of the condition and treated it.  

Snow and ice within parking lots are usually removed by snow plows and placing salt on the ice.  Based on the facts of this case, the shopping mall’s owner, manager or tenants can show they acted properly since they removed all snow and ice from the parking lot.  They can also show the ice that the customer slipped on was not visible or apparent.  They can also argue the ice was formed so close in time to the accident that could not have been expected to notice and remove the ice from the parking lot.  

Typically, a shopping mall owner or tenant seeking to dismiss a case would have to produce an employee who says she inspected the parking lot close in time to the accident and did not notice any snow or ice.  They can also rely on climatological reports indicating that when the snowfall took place, they lacked enough time to remove the slippery condition from the parking lot.   When snow melts and refreezes due to temperature fluctuations, ice can develop from these changes.  However, if the temperature fluctuations only occurred within a couple of hours before the accident, Courts can find this an insufficient time for the shopping mall to have removed it from the parking lot.

In the recent case, the shopping mall owner, manager and tenants all moved to dismiss the case.  The lower court denied their motions.  The appellate court agreed with the injured customer that the shopping mall was unable to establish they lacked notice of the ice within the parking lot.  In doing so, the appellate court relied on the injury customer’s testimony that she observed “ice all around her” after she fell.  This raised a question of whether the ice was visible and apparent.  The appellate court also found the shopping mall failed to prove that the ice formed so close in time to the accident that they lacked enough time to remove it from the parking lot. 

This case shows how a property owner responsible for maintaining and inspecting parking lots for snow and ice must have employees attentive to the conditions that follow a snowstorm.  While shopping malls often have snowplows clear the snow from the lots, they fail to return and inspect left over snow or ice patches.  They also fail to consider temperature changes that can cause piled snow to melt and refreeze as ice.  

If you slip and fall on ice in a parking lot, it is important to take photos of the area where you fell.  By showing the amount of ice on the pavement, we can prove it was a condition that the shopping mall had enough time to remove.  Also, by investigating the accident scene and obtaining weather reports, we prove the icy condition was dangerous and that the property owner had enough time to remove from the parking lot.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at swp@plattalaw.com, or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.

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