Slip & Fall Case: Snow Removal


A slip & fall victim contradicts his own weather expert on snow conditions at the time of the accident.
Here are excerpts from a court decision in an actual slip & fall case. On February 16, 2010, Christopher DeNiese, a Chase Bank branch manager, was brushing snow from his car. The car was parked in a parking space in front of the bank. While brushing the snow, DeNiese had a slip & fall accident. He fell into a shrub-row adjacent to the parking spot.

DeNiese hired a slip & fall attorney. The attorney sued Lane Valente May Site Services, Inc.. Lane Valente was the bank’s snow-removal and landscaping contractor. The slip & fall lawyer claimed that Lane Valente carelessly performed its snow-removal services. Lane Valente allegedly left the shrub-row in a low, stump-like condition with sharp, spear-like branches. According to DeNiese’s slip & fall attorney, those careless acts caused the serious injuries DeNiese sustained when he fell into the shrub-row.

Lane Valente performed snow removal services on February 15, 2010. According to DeNiese’s initial testimony, he had no trouble parking or walking from his car into the bank building on the morning of February 16. No customers or employees complained of any problems walking in the area. There was no evidence that DeNiese or the bank notified Lane Valente to return on the 16th.

Slip & Fall Case Snow Removal

DeNiese produced no contract that suggested that Lane Valente was required, without being first notified by the bank, to monitor the parking area for melting and re-freezing snow.

DeNiese further testified that, on the evening of the accident, he had no trouble walking to his car, even though it had snowed during the day. He saw no patches of ice. He also testified that he did not remember what caused him to slip. After falling and getting up, DeNiese returned to his car. He had no trouble doing so. He did not slip or slide.

DeNiese’s slip & fall attorney hired a weather expert. According to the expert, 13.6 inches of snow fell between February 9 and February 15. On February 16, only 6 inches remained. On February 16, 2.2 inches of snow fell. The snow commenced falling at 10:00 p.m. on February 15. It stopped at or near 5:00 p.m. on February 16. Therefore, the snowfall camouflaged the underlying icy conditions from view. The expert stated that this prevented the DeNiese from viewing the icy surface.

DeNiese’s problem was that his initial testimony contradicted his expert’s opinion. DeNiese attempted to modify his initial testimony by filing a written statement. The trial judge disregarded the written statement. The judge treated DeNiese’s written statement as a sham affidavit. He threw DeNiese’s case out of court. An appeals court recently affirmed the decision.

The moral of the story is that a slip & fall victim should review a weather report before he or she testifies.

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