Melting and Refreezing

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Q: In my employer’s parking lot, as I was getting out of my car, I slipped on ice.

A: Quite possibly, your employer has a contract with a snow removal service.  The contract requires the service to perform snow plowing, snow removal and ice removal.

Generally, a party to a contract is not liable to a non-party, like you.  However, the service may be said to have assumed a duty of care – and thus be potentially liable in tort: (1) where the service, in failing to exercise reasonable care, launched a force or instrument of harm; (2) where you detrimentally relied on the continued performance of the service’s duties; or (3) where the service entirely has displaced the owner’s duty safely to maintain the premises.

Suppose that the service had piled snow in an improper location or manner, or should totally have taken it away.  Then the snow melted from the snowbanks, and this water ran onto the parking spaces.  When the temperature went back below freezing, the runoff froze, becoming the slippery ice that you fell on.  If so, then your case appears to be a strong one under the instrument-of-harm category.

When a defendant has actual knowledge of the tendency of a particular dangerous condition to reoccur, it is charged with constructive notice of each specific reoccurrence.  Surely, the service had actual knowledge of this longstanding, recurring, thaw-refreeze condition.  Accordingly, the service may be charged with constructive notice of each specific recurrence – with knowledge of the specific icy condition that caused you to fall.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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