New York winters bring hazardous and dangerous conditions for pedestrians.
Accumulated snow and ice can cause sidewalks, parking lots, stairs, driveways,
and other walkway surfaces to become slippery and unsafe. In addition,
snow and ice tracked indoors can melt and create slippery surfaces on
floors. These hazardous and dangerous conditions can result in
slip and falls causing serious personal injuries.
Slip and fall cases are known as
premises liability causes of action, and may result in compensation for any injuries which
resulted from your fall. Our
experienced Kingston slip and fall attorneys understand this area of law very well. We have compiled an important overview
of this common type of personal injury for you to share with friends and
family, print this page, or bookmark it for future reference.
A Duty Owed
Under New York law, the general rule is that a property owner, possessor,
or maintainer has a duty to keep his or her premises safe for all entrants
onto the property. This duty was articulated by the highest court in New
York, the Court of Appeals, which held in Basso v. Miller that property
owners, possessors, or maintainers must exercise “reasonable care
under the circumstances” to all entrants on the property.
Essentially, this duty requires owners, possessors, or maintainers to keep
their properties safe for entrants. Meaning, if they become aware of,
or should be aware of, a dangerous condition on the property, they will
be liable for any foreseeable injuries to visitors on the property. Snow
and ice is considered to be a dangerous condition on the premises.
Proving Your Case: The Notice Requirement
If you or a loved one has suffered from a slip and fall accident in the
Mid-Hudson Valley region, you will need to prove that the property owner,
possessor, or maintainer breached his or her duty owed to you and such
breach caused your injury. This is an essential element that must be proven.
There are two main ways to satisfy this element. The first is when the
property owner, possessor, or maintainer creates the dangerous condition.
In slip and fall cases caused by snow and ice, a defendant could create
the dangerous condition by inappropriately piling snow which causes the fall.
The second way to satisfy this element is with notice. There are two types
of notice; actual notice and constructive notice. Actual notice is just
what it sounds; there is evidence that the defendant had become aware
of the dangerous condition. This could be due to an incident report or
an admission. Constructive notice is more difficult to prove because it
is when the defendant did not know, but should have known about a dangerous
condition. This could be due to the fact that the condition existed on
the premises for a long period of time, or because the condition always occurs (i.e., when snow melts the gutter drain always causes an icy sidewalk).
It should be noted that notice is
not required when the defendant created the dangerous condition.
Common Defenses: The Storm in Progress Doctrine
While property owners, possessors, or maintainers must use reasonable care
in the upkeep of their properties, they will not always be liable for
unsafe conditions. New York courts have developed what has become known
as the “storm in progress” doctrine to provide property owners,
possessors, or maintainers a reasonable period of time to remedy the dangerous
condition of snow and ice.
The reasonable period of time provided by the courts does not begin to run untilafter the storm has ended. Meaning, a property owner, possessor, or maintainer
has no duty to remove dangerous accumulations of snow and ice until
after the storm has ended for a reasonable period of time. A temporary lull
in the storm also does not trigger the time period to begin; the storm
must be completely finished.
Thus, a slip and fall occurring during or immediately after a storm will
prevent a landowner from having any liability.
Special Issues With Slip and Falls
There is a natural thaw and freeze cycle with snow and melted snow turning
back to ice. Where a defendant piles snow in a location where it could
melt and refreeze to ice, a defendant will likely be found to have created
the dangerous condition on the premises. For instance, where a defendant
piles snow on an uphill portion of the parking lot, when that snow melts
and trickles down the uphill portion to low-laying portions then refreezes
to ice, New York courts have held that to be creation of a dangerous condition.
Piled up snow can also result in a recurring condition of ice. For example,
if the snow always melts during the warmer, sunny days and travels down
the same path, such as down a decline in the sidewalk, New York courts
have found that to be recurring condition and sufficient to prove constructive notice.
Melted snow and ice that is tracked into a store may also be considered
a recurring dangerous condition. There are New York court cases where
melted snow in a store causing slip and falls is found to be another recurring conditioneven if the defendant-store has mats down. In fact, improperly attempting to
clean up the melted snow may also result in liability through the creation
of a dangerous condition; at the very least, it would be actual notice.
One way to combat the snow in progress doctrine is with a forensic meteorologist.
Such expert will be able to review comprehensive sets of data to determine
when the last snowfall was before your slip and fall. This will help pinpoint
when the storm had ended and when a defendant’s reasonable period
of time begins.
Our slip and fall attorneys at
Mainetti, Mainetti, and O’Connor, P.C. have over 100 years of combined experience working with victims of personal
injury accidents throughout New York. We understand how to effectively
represent clients who have been injured in serious personal injury accidents,
particularly throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley region in Kingston, Poughkeepsie,
and Newburgh where we have offices.
what our clients are saying about us here and learn about just some of our
successful results here.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a personal injury accident, please
do not hesitate to contact us by calling 845-340-HURT (4878) or toll free
at 866-440-4452, or by using the
convenient contact form here.