A parking lot can be a dangerous place in winter. Freezing temperatures, winds, ice and drifting snow can cause hazardous conditions for customers and employees using a parking lot. A business owner has a duty to keep its parking lot in a reasonably safe condition for those who legitimately enter the premises.
To recover in a law suit for an injury caused by icy conditions in a parking lot, the victim of the slip and fall injury must prove that the business owner either had actual notice of the presence of the specific unsafe condition which caused the injury or "constructive" notice of it-constructive notice means that a reasonable business owner should have been aware of the dangerous condition and known that an injury might occur.
The Connecticut Superior Court case of Kaplan v. Danbury Hospital discusses this issue.
Icy parking lot leads to an injury
On a January morning, the victim was walking on the hospital premises when he slipped and fell due to the icy conditions in the parking lot. The victim suffered multiple injuries and alleged that the hospital had failed to properly maintain or inspect the premises, warn the victim of the icy condition, or remove the ice in a timely manner, among other allegations.
The hospital made a motion for "summary judgment"-to dismiss the case at the very outset, before the victim even had his day in court. Specifically, the hospital argued that the victim could not prove that the hospital had notice of the icy conditions in the parking lot.
Would a reasonable inspection have shown the danger?
The hospital claimed that the victim had produced nothing to demonstrate the nature and duration of the allegedly dangerous condition. The hospital's argument relied on portions of the victim's deposition testimony where he indicated that the ground appeared to be wet and did not look icy before he fell. The hospital argued that this negated the idea that a reasonable inspection would have disclosed an icy condition in the parking lot.
However, the court noted that proof of constructive notice can come from any competent evidence and is not limited to facts personally observed by the injured party. The victim's deposition testimony merely demonstrated that the ground of the parking lot appeared "black and wet" to the victim himself. The hospital still had presented no evidence that a reasonable inspection would not have disclosed the icy condition in the parking lot.
Likewise, whether the icy condition existed for long enough to have been reasonably discovered was an unresolved factual issue. The deposition testimony of the hospital groundskeeper, who did not even recall any details of the day of the incident, or even whether he was working that day, was not sufficient evidentiary support.
Because the hospital had submitted nothing showing that a reasonable inspection would not have disclosed the risk, the hospital failed to meet their initial burden of proving it was entitled to summary judgment. Thus, the victim's premises liability case was be allowed to move forward through the court system and to trial.
The compensation you deserve
If you or a loved one suffers a serious injury due to dangerous conditions in a store, parking garage or public space, it is important that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Seek an attorney who will collect evidence, interview witnesses and investigate the cause of the accident, and who will then work to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.