Court summarily dismisses woman's premises liability claim after slip on ice
Patricia Ann Williams is a neonatal academic specialist who was required, by her employment, to make numerous trips to Sparrow Hospital. She arrived for an appointment on March 11, 2011, and fell while reaching to remove baby formula from her parked car. Reaching around, she identified an area of black ice approximately 2' by 2'. Her knee was extensively damaged and she sought compensation from Sparrow, arguing that it was negligent in addressing the ice hazard in the parking ramp.
The trial judge rejected Sparrow's argument that the black ice condition was "open and obvious," but still summarily dismissed Williams' claim on the basis that she had provided no proof that Sparrow had "actual notice" of the icy condition. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court and affirmed the summary disposition of the case.
Surprisingly, the court held that she could not rely upon the maintenance supervisor's admission that ice was known to accumulate along the south edges of the ramp "when snow is plowed up along that edge." The Court held this testimony was irrelevant because there was no plowed snow visible along that edge of the ramp on the day of the fall: this really didn't address Williams' argument that the icy hazard that was present was caused by plowing snow into the area where it would melt and re-freeze.
The appeals panel stressed the Catch-22 argument it applied to Williams' injury claim: the landowner has not notice of ice unless snow is present; if snow is present, Williams would have been warned of an "open and obvious danger" and could not pursue a claim. The Court's logic ignored the very reasonable argument that a history of plowed snow creating icy hazards in this area had given the owner reasonable notice of the hazard that black ice would be present in the area as plowed snow melted and disappeared.