Canít Sue for Snow
by Ron Davis
Shopping center visitors are largely responsible for their own safety when winter storms create hazardous conditions. That, in essence, was the rationale behind a recent Kentucky legal decision favoring the owners of a Lexington shopping center.
A visitor to that shopping center had slipped and fallen on packed snow there one winter day, and she blamed the centerís owners for the mishap. She claimed they had negligently failed to clear the centerís parking lot of snow and ice, resulting in her fall and injury.
In response, the centerís owners argued that Kentucky law does not recognize a landownerís duty to clear snow or warn against the obviously slippery condition of a parking lot after or during a snowfall.
On the day the woman fell, however, the centerís owners reacted to a heavy snowfall that morning by trying to keep the parking lot cleared. Plowing services had worked to remove the snow on two occasions. But in all more than a foot of snow fell during the storm, and snow had again blanketed the centerís parking lot by the time the woman drove onto the centerís property and parked her car.
Actually, the womanís visit to the shopping center was the second that day. Despite her knowledge of the condition of the centerís parking lot, she had returned to a grocery store there to purchase additional items. As a result of her fall, she broke an ankle.
A Kentucky court, in ruling in favor of the shopping centerís owners, concluded that no duty existed for them to either remedy or warn against the obvious natural hazard posed by the snow-covered parking lot.
The woman appealed that decision.
A Kentucky appellate court agreed with the lower court, explaining, ďOn her second visit to the shopping center, the woman was placed on notice that the parking lotís condition had not changed since her first visit. Despite her awareness of the obvious slick and icy condition there, she chose to walk in the parking lot. These facts support the finding that the property owners had no duty to clear the snow or to warn her of an obvious natural hazard that was readily apparent to her prior to her unfortunate injury.Ē (Vickers v. Bellerive Development, Inc., 2004 WL 67857 [Ky.App.])
Decision: February 2004
Published: May 2004