Hills And Ridges Doctrine And General Icy Conditions


Tucker v. Bensalem Twp. School Dist., 2009 WL 4877767 (Dec. 17, 2009)


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Cipriani & Werner, P.C. successfully defended an appeal to the Commonwealth Court arising out of the trial court’s denial of Plaintiff’s Post-Trial Motion. In the case of Tucker v. Bensalem Twp. School Dist., 2009 WL 4877767 (Dec. 17, 2009)(Leavitt, J., Kelley, S.J., Flaherty, S.J.), the Commonwealth Court upheld the defense verdict in favor of the school district in a parking lot slip and fall accident involving black ice. Prior to the start of trial, defense counsel was able to obtain a stipulation from Plaintiff that she was only pursuing a claim for the negligent failure to maintain the parking lot and not a design defect.

The Commonwealth Court concluded that the jury properly concluded that the Plaintiff failed to establish a cause of action for negligence. In setting forth the standard of care owed by an owner/possessor of land during generally icy conditions, the Commonwealth Court held that a property owner is not required to keep his parking lot free from ice at all times, as weather conditions can make this difficult if not impossible. The Commonwealth Court went on to hold that there is no liability where there are generally slippery conditions from a recent or current storm.

The Commonwealth Court upheld the Hills and Ridges standard as being applicable during general icy conditions. To recover, the Court confimed that a person must prove that there was a dangerous condition created by hills and ridges, which was created by the defendant's negligence, or which was allowed to remain for an unreasonable length of time. At trial, the Plaintiff only presented testimony that the ice was clear and smooth. The Defendant offered evidence that the local roads and parking lots were also icy and slippery due to the recent bad weather. There was also additional evidence that the parking lot had been plowed and salted by the school district the night before the incident. Because of the disputed evidence, the Commonwealth Court held that the jury had sufficient evidence to determine that the school district was not negligent.

What It Means to You

The Commonwealth Court affirmed the Hills and Ridges Doctrine as the standard for general icy conditions. The Hills and Ridges Doctrine continues to be a powerful tool in your defense arsenal. The attorneys at Cipriani & Werner are available to assist you in analyzing the facts of your particular case.

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March 2010
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