Roscommon woman's injury case is dismissed where Court majority defines "hazard" to exclude claim
Judy Hazelton fell and broke her ankle at the Sunny Spot gas station and convenience store in Roscommon. She fell on ice that she did not see until she was lying on the ground. Testimony from Hazelton, two store employees and a customer who was present established that the ice was a continuing problem caused by roof run-off and a missing gutter. The testimony included an acknowledgement by the store manager and another employee that the icing problem had existed for a number of months and occurred even in the absence of rain or snow.
Despite this testimony, the Republican majority on the panel defined the hazard as the current icy surface and not the roof problem that created it. On that basis, the two judges concluded that Hazelton's claim must be dismissed because she could not prove that the store owner "should have discovered" the existence of the hazard. The dissenting judge strongly disagreed, pointing out that since there had been no precipitation for several days, and since the roof was not actively dripping at the time of the fall, a reasonable juror could easily conclude that the ice had been present for some time. More importantly, Judge Murphy, the dissenter, pointed out that ice formation was reasonably foreseeable, given the long-standing roof problem, meaning that the store should have discovered it or repaired it before an injury occurred.