Slip Fall Case: Snow Removal

SLIP FALL VICTIM SUES FOR FALL OUTSIDE HER APARTMENT DURING SNOWSTORM

Here are excerpts from an actual New Jersey slip fall case.

Arlene Holmes was a tenant at an apartment complex owned and operated by INCAA-Carroll Street Houses Corp and VMC Management. She suffered a slip fall injury on snow outside of her apartment.

Between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m., on February 26, 2010, Holmes walked three feet from her door.  The slip fall accident then occurred.  She was making her way to her car in the parking lot. She needed to drive to a local drugstore to refill a prescription.

Holmes testified that, when she walked outside, the accumulated snow reached the tops of her boots. Although it had snowed the prior day, it was not snowing when she awakened that morning.

Holmes’s son attempted to obtain an ambulance to take her to the hospital.  However, the ambulance refused, because of the condition of the roadways. The streets were not cleared until the next day.

The owner and operator of the building produced a weather report.  The report described the weather as “periods of snow [that] tapered off to flurries by afternoon.” According to the report, around the time of the incident, light snow was falling.  The report further stated that storm began on February 25 around 4:30 a.m.. It persisted until after mid-day on February 26. A winter storm warning remained in effect until February 27.

The owner and operator applied to the trial judge to terminate Holmes’ slip fall case. They relied on a prior court decision. The decision ruled that to impose a duty on a landlord to clear a walkway in the middle of a snowstorm would violate “basic fairness.”  In other words, the landlord must be given a reasonable amount of time after the storm stops to clear the snow.

Judge’s Ruling

The judge agreed with the owner and operator, and dismissed Holmes’ slip fall case. The judge noted that, other than her own testimony, Holmes offered no evidence to refute the weather report. Holmes knew about the snow before stepping outdoors. She could see the hazardous conditions in which she had to walk. By her own admission, the storm was so severe that she couldn’t obtain medical attention until the next day.

Holmes appealed the ruling. However, on June 2, 2015, the appeals court agreed with the trial judge. Holmes had no slip fall case.

To prevail, Holmes should have produced a weather expert to demonstrate that it had stopped snowing before she fell.

If you ever have a slip fall case, it is imperative that you hire an experienced attorney, who will know how to maximize your chances to win.

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