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An Ice Decision
by Ron Davis

A slip-and-fall victim employed by a tenant of a Louisiana shopping center will have to seek reparation elsewhere than the center's owners for the injuries she sustained in the accident.

The shopping center is Pierre Bossier Mall in Bossier City, and the victim had claimed that her accident was caused by the negligence of the center's owners.

The accident occurred during an ice storm that struck Bossier City and North Louisiana unexpectedly one winter morning. The shopping center's personnel responded to the storm by spreading rock salt throughout the center's common areas, but as conditions worsened during the day, the center's management decided at mid-afternoon to close the facility at 5 p.m. And by the time set for closing, the center was cleared of customers and most employees of tenants.

But the accident victim, who was a part-time employee for a tax-preparation service, normally did not report for work until 5:30. And before going to her job the day of the ice storm she called her supervisor and was told that although the shopping center was closing early, the tax service would remain open for business and she should use her own discretion in reporting for work.

She resided only a short distance from the shopping center, and she decided to risk the commute. She arrived safely, worked for two hours, and then, after accompanying a customer to her car in the center's parking lot, slipped on ice and fell. As a result of the fall, she injured her right arm and shoulder.

She subsequently sued, accusing the center's owners of negligence in failing to maintain their premises in an ice-free condition and for failing to warn of the hazard caused by the ice accumulation in the parking area. A Louisiana appellate court, in ruling in favor of the center's owners, explained, "We find that under the facts and circumstances of this case, the center acted reasonably and thus did not breach its duty of care to the victim of this accident. Furthermore, if blame is to be assigned it would lie primarily with the victim and to a smaller extent with her employer.... Although every other occupant of the center had closed in response to worsening conditions, her employer remained open, though she was not required to report to work. Instead, the decision was hers to make. Fully cognizant of the potential hazards associated with the severe winter weather, she nonetheless chose to work that evening.... We could have found that the sole cause of her injuries was her poor judgment." (Keller v. Odin Management, Inc., 762 So.2d 657 [La.App. 2 Cir.2000])

Decision: July 2000
Published: September 2000



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