Posted by Gary Burger on September 26, 2017 in Premises Liability
Gary: One of the cases that I tried and was featured at an article in last year’s lawyer newspaper was our client who slipped and fell on a patch of black ice outside of a hotel. It was unwitnessed fall in Springfield, Missouri. Our client slipped and fell and injured himself. Now, he got medical four days later but was not diagnosed with significant medical care until about five months later, and that sounds like a problem, right? Well, we were very aggressive in the case.
Good for us is that he did report it to the manager right away, and he had taken a picture of the salt that was on his coat, and so we knew that it had been salted. We were able to get a $250,000 recovery for our client. We paid off all his medical, put a lot of money in his pocket. We reduced all the medical liens, as we always do, and it was significant enough to be written about by one of the reporters of the Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
And we happen to be recording this video. If you watch it in the summary, you won’t appreciate it, but we happen to be recording this video on… John, how cold was it this morning when you woke up, one, three?
John: I think maybe four degrees.
Gary: Yeah, it was freezing this morning. We’re recording this in January. John, can you talk to us a little bit about… This is John Burns of Burger Law. John, talk to the folks a little bit about snow and ice falls and the interesting law that we have surrounding that.
John: Sure. So, just because snow is on, for example, say, a parking lot, just because it snows and there’s snow or ice in the parking lot does not necessarily mean that the landowner has to clear that snow off of the parking lot. However, if the landowner does undertake to clear the snow or the ice off the parking lot and does it negligently, then they are liable for that. Now, there are exceptions to that of course. If the snow comes down in a particular way where it’s uniquely accumulating in one particular area so that the landowner should have known to take ordinary care to clean that up, then they can also be liable.
Gary: Right. In the Midwest, we’re the thawing and refreezing capital of the world. This happens all the time, where the stuff melts, and then one day it’s 50, the next day it’s 20, and this just happened, and we get that all the time, and so, when that thaws and refreezes, and that happened in this case right here, and so they denied in this case, so I took a video deposition of the defendant, and he said he didn’t know about any problems, didn’t know any problems, and it happened near a gutter, and I showed him a picture where they had a bucket sitting underneath one of their gutters to collect the dripping, and I said, “Why do you have this bucket here?” He’s like, “Oh, I guess we knew about it,” and then he ended up admitting that they knew it was a problem, that they had encountered the problem before, that they knew that ice refroze in that area, because you know, where there’s smoke there’s fire. If someone gets injured in this type of a thing, it ain’t the first time it’s happened and most of the time these landowners know.
But you make a good point, John, too that in Missouri and Illinois and most other states, it’s considered in the law that snow and ice is an act of God and someone’s not necessarily responsible for it. However, if they do take action, do it negligently like failure to shovel everywhere, shovel off the snow but leave the ice, only put some ice melt on and not reapply, or not put up the ice melt before it freezes. There’s a host of other ways where they’re negligent, and if you’re in the business where you’re bringing in customers and you’re not closing when it’s snowy and icy out, you’re responsible if people fall and injure themselves. What are some of the things that when we talk to clients about this, what do we ask them to identify and talk to us about in these types of claims?
John: Well, obviously we would want to know whether or not they witnessed anybody putting out salt or shoveling snow, clearing ice, if they have any photos of shoveling snow or clearing ice or photos of the injury, how they fell, how they landed, the parts of the body that were injured, stuff like that.
Gary: All right.