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When icy business parking lots cause patrons to fall

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2024 | Personal Injury

When icy conditions plague business parking lots in Pennsylvania, the likelihood that slip-and-fall accidents will occur increases significantly. These incidents not only lead to potential physical harm for patrons but also raise important legal considerations for businesses. 

Pennsylvania’s approach to dealing with such situations is informed by a combination of premises liability law and state-specific regulations. For example, the state honors a legal theory known as the “Hills and Ridges Doctrine” that is unique to Pennsylvania law. As a result of the complex nature of this issue, it is understandable that both businesses and injury victims may have questions when the subject of legal action arises in the wake of an icy parking lot slip-and-fall incident. 

Broader premises liability law in Pennsylvania 

In Pennsylvania, premises liability law holds property owners and occupiers (including tenants) responsible for maintaining their property in a safe condition. This includes the duty to reasonably inspect for, and address, hazardous conditions like ice and snow in parking lots. Businesses are expected to take prompt action to mitigate these risks, such as salting and plowing their parking areas in anticipation of and/or response to, icy or snowy conditions. 

Liability in Pennsylvania is also influenced by a reasonableness standard. This means the court will consider whether a business owner acted reasonably in addressing the icy conditions if someone sustains physical harm on their property. Factors like the amount of time that has passed since the snowfall, the resources available to the business and the foreseeability of an accident will be taken into account during litigation. 

The Hills and Ridges Doctrine

A unique aspect of Pennsylvania premises liability law is the “Hills and Ridges Doctrine.” This legal principle broadly protects property owners from liability for generally slippery conditions due to ice and snow. To hold a property owner liable under this doctrine, a plaintiff must prove that the accumulations of ice and snow were in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to pedestrians. However, this doctrine doesn’t apply if the icy condition is caused by an artificial pathway or localized issue, like a leaking gutter.

Additionally, in slip-and-fall cases in Pennsylvania, the concept of comparative negligence often comes into play. This means that if the injured party is found to be partially at fault for their fall (not paying attention to where they were walking, etc.), their compensation can be reduced by their percentage of fault. If they are more than 50% responsible for their own harm, they cannot recover damages.

While it is possible to hold businesses accountable for slip-and-fall incidents in icy parking lots, both the Hills and Ridges Doctrine and the state’s comparative negligence standard make pursuing compensation more difficult than it might otherwise be. As a result, injury victims should seek guidance before committing to a course of action.