Throughout the winter season, individuals throughout Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia county, are injured due to slipping on icy pathways. Often these injuries occur through no fault of the injured party but leave them in a situation that can be financially, emotionally, and physically problematic. It is essential that those who suffer ice-related injuries are aware of their rights and what steps they can take to alleviate their medical and financial hardships.
Premises Liability: What Duty do Owner’s Owe and to Whom?
The duty of care a property owner owes to an individual on their property depends on the nature and purpose for the person being on the land in the first place. Generally, an individual who enters the property can be placed into 3 separate categories:
Trespasser– An individual who has entered upon the property of another without the owner’s consent. In many cases the owner owes no duty to this type of guest but the owner CANNOT intentionally, willfully, or wantonly cause an injury to this person. An owner is not allowed to set up traps, or other deadly objects on the property for the purpose of harming trespassers. In the case of trespassing children, the owner should be aware of any attractive nuisances (swimming pools, swing sets, trampolines) that would cause the child to come upon the property. In PA, children are afforded one of the highest levels of care and a landowner must take steps to ensure that his/her property is safe for children.
Licensee– An individual who enters upon the landowner’s property with permission for the visitor’s own benefit and not the owner’s (for example someone who is invited over for dinner or a birthday party). A higher level of care is owed to licensees as opposed to adult trespassers. In the case of licensees, a landowner has the legal responsibility to warn these guests about any dangerous conditions on the property that would create an unreasonable risk of harm that is known to the landowner but would not likely be known to the guest.
Invitee– An individual who enters upon the land for the benefit of the owner (customer, business visitor, worker, etc.). The owner of any public, business, or otherwise commercial property must keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. Invitees are owed the highest standard of care and the owner must warn invitees of any known or reasonably knowable hazards on the property.
Pennsylvania’s Laws Regarding Injuries due to Slipping on Ice
Hills and Ridges Rule
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, an owner of land that was icy will not be liable in every situation in which an individual was injured. An owner cannot be liable in all situations because it places an undue burden on the property owner to always keep his/her pathways free from ice at all times. As we have seen from years past, Pennsylvania is a state in which snow and/or icy conditions are not always foreseeable and therefore it is impossible to mandate property owners to ALWAYS have snow/ice free pathways.
Exceptions to the Hills and Ridges Rule
In order to file a lawsuit related to an injury that occurred due to an icy pathway, the following things must be established:
- The amount of snow and ice that accumulated in the area of the fall/injury was of such an unreasonable amount and character that it obstructed movement and posed a danger to pedestrians.
- The owner of the property was aware of the unreasonable conditions on their property or that the conditions existed for such a period of time, the owner should have been aware of it.
- The fall/injury was caused by the accumulation of the dangerous condition (the snow/ice).
Given what must be established in order to file a lawsuit against the owner of the property, having an experienced attorney is vital to the success of any lawsuit. While these incidents can often be a difficult situation to handle due to the financial, emotional, and physical burden it places on the injured party, it is important to know that YOU have rights.
Your Future is our Priority
The Law Office of Vincent J. Caputo is ready to help you through this process. Please contact us with any question about your or a loved ones specific injury. Our experienced staff and attorneys will ensure that your needs, concerns, and questions will be handled in a professional and courteous manner. Your Future is Our Priority!