This is a review of a New York State Supreme Court decision in a premises liability case. The defendant in this case was a property owner who had a visitor slip and fall in his parking lot.This visitor eventually hired a slip and fall accident attorney and filed a personal injury lawsuit.
Attorneys for the defendant responded to the suit with a Motion for Summary Judgment. In the Motion, they contended there was so little evidence linking the defendant’s actions to the visitor’s injury that the case shouldn’t go to trial.
Statement of Facts…
On January 2, 2011, Geri Warton pulled into the parking lot of Main Pizza. Warton and her teenage daughter were there to pick up a pizza Warton had ordered earlier on her way home from her daughter’s soccer game. The parking lot was owned by Ross Lowe. Lowe also owned and managed Main Pizza.
The temperature for the last few days had hovered around freezing. It had rained that day, and the weather was still misting. As Warton and her daughter exited their SUV, Warton commented to her daughter that the lot appeared to be slippery, and she should be careful walking. At the time, neither Warton nor her daughter saw any ice patches.
After picking up the pizza, mother and daughter headed to the SUV across the parking lot. As she was about to enter the vehicle, Warton alleges she slipped on a patch of ice and was injured. She later testified she and her daughter spent about 10 minutes inside Main waiting for the pizza to be cooked. During that time she never mentioned to any employee there was ice in the parking lot.
Soon after the fall Warton retained a slip and fall accident attorney and filed suit against Main, alleging that as a result of the fall she suffered torn ligaments, bruising, and lacerations to both knees.
Attorneys for Main denied liability for the fall and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the court to dismiss the case without trial.
Motion for Summary Judgment…
Main filed a Motion for Summary Judgment alleging if Warton suffered injuries her lawsuit didn’t sufficiently connect those injuries to any negligence on the part of Main.
In its Motion, Main argued several issues. Among them were:
- Warton knew it was very cold and misting that day.
- At the time Warton commented to her daughter it “appeared to be slippery.”
- At the time Warton didn’t notice any ice or ice patches.
- During the 10 minutes in Main’s Pizza Warton never mentioned to any employee her concern about ice or icy patches, although she had ample time to do so.
- Without notice of ice or icy patches, Main had no reason to remove such ice.
- Warton was both born and raised in New York and was well aware of the dangers during cold and wet January days.
- 3 hours before Warton fell, Main “salted” the parking lot for the second time that day.
- No other customers complained of any dangerous or icy conditions in the parking lot.
- No other customers suffered any falls or other injuries that day.
Main’s Motion went on to argue it had taken every possible precaution to protect its customers from injury, especially during the winter when the rain and snow could result in ice patches.
In his response to the Motion, Warton’s slip and fall accident attorney argued Main knew of the potential for the formation of ice, and as a result had a strict duty to maintain the parking lot at all times during business hours.
He also argued that Main admitted it knew about the possibility of dangerous ice because it had salted the parking lot twice that day. Main’s failure to keep the parking lot safe was negligence and therefore Warton should be permitted to proceed to trial.
After all the evidence was submitted and both slip and fall accident attorneys made their final arguments the Court took the case under advisement. Three days later the Court’s decision came down. It read in part…
“The Court is convinced the Plaintiff Warton suffered injuries to both knees when she fell in the Defendant’s parking lot. Testimony from Warton’s daughter leads the Court to believe the fall was not as a result of her mother’s carelessness or inattention. She recalled her mother telling her the parking lot was slippery and to be careful walking.
Although the Plaintiff did not produce any tangible evidence to show her fall resulted from slipping on ice, the Court accepts the fact that it was.
With that said, the Court finds Main took every reasonable precaution to protect his customers from injuries that wet and cold January day.
The Court has a problem finding the fall was “proximately caused” by the negligence of Main. The duty of a landowner is not limitless. When Acts of God intervene in the form of inclement weather, the injuries received by a party cannot automatically be borne by the landowner.
This Court does not have jurisdiction to hear cases between injured parties and God. We can only hear cases between injured parties and those other than God who may be responsible for those injuries.
In this case the Court finds the Plaintiff failed to produce any triable issues of fact to connect the Defendant to her injuries. The Defendant is therefore entitled to have his Motion for summary Judgment granted, and the Plaintiff’s case is dismissed.”
- Acts of God or Nature are real. Injuries which result as a direct result of those Acts can’t be imputed to a party who may have no power or ability to control those Acts. A Defendant can only be held liable for those acts in which he has control.
- Slip and fall accident attorneys must be cautioned about filing lawsuits which may not survive the challenges of a Motion for Summary Judgment. Without clear triable issues of fact connecting the Defendant to a client’s injuries, the lawsuit may not survive.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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