Being Minnesotans, we have all dealt with cold weather and know how slippery sidewalks and parking lots can be. You probably have not lived in Minnesota too long if you have not slipped on your own sidewalk or driveway. When it comes to slipping and falling on someone else’s property, whether or not you have a claim is very fact specific. No matter what, the first thing to consider is where the fall occurred.
City Sidewalks and Roads
Minnesota has held that even when there are dangerous ice “ridges” on a sidewalk caused by normal traffic of cars and pedestrians, the city may not be held responsible. They cannot be expected to protect all citizens from every hazard that could possibly occur. Especially when it is out of the government’s control.
Be that as it may, there are times that you can still make a recovery when falling on a public sidewalk or road. Minnesota courts have said that a person can bring a claim if the accumulation was caused by an artificial condition. The catch is that the claim must be brought against the owner that maintained or created that artificial condition. While a city will have other protections available to it, a private owner could also have caused the hazard on the public sidewalk. Think a leaking gutter spout pouring onto the sidewalk in the middle of winter or an owner shoveling their snow onto the sidewalk.
It is also important to note that even though it may seem like you fell on public property, it certainly could be privately owned. Think a driveway or sidewalk leading into a business.
Private Property, Apartment Complex Common Area, Parking Lot, Driveway
You can almost always bring a claim against a private owner of the property. In most of these cases, the owner will deny liability. What that means is that they will not take responsibility and will not offer any compensation for your pain and suffering.
If they do deny liability, you will need to sue the owner of the property for negligence. Negligence has a few elements that must be proven in a court to receive compensation. In short, you will need to prove that the owner had a duty to take care of the ice, that they did not do so, that the fact that the owner did not take care of the ice caused you to fall and get hurt.
Once you have sued the owner, you will exchange information and take depositions. Following this, and most of the time, the owner will bring what is called a “motion for summary judgment.”
Summary judgment is a way for one party to win their case without a trial. To do this one side must show there are no facts which can reasonably be disputed; or anyone looking at the facts and applying law would rule in favor of the moving party.
In a slip and fall case, there are a few arguments that are commonly used. However, there are always more depending on the facts.
The owner owed no duty in the first place – Did the owner have actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard? If owner did not know about it, how can he have a duty to take care of it? If the owner can convince the judge that he had no way of knowing about the hazard or that the owner did not cause the hazard, the case will end there.
The ice was “open and obvious” and you should have seen it – You are from Minnesota. You know that ice could be there. Or you should know ice is there. You also know that you need watch out for ice on the sidewalk. You know ice is slippery and you always must be careful. The ice was so obvious that you should have been aware of the risk like every other Minnesotan.
Assumption of the Risk – Maybe you saw the ice. Or you saw a snow-covered sidewalk and proceeded ahead. Why didn’t you take a different path or avoid it? When you proceeded across the ice, you knew there was a risk of falling and injuring yourself.
These are some of the common arguments in a slip and fall cases involving ice.
Some of the best cases I have had involved slipping on ice when I thought there was little chance at recovery. After investigating, most of the time there are enough facts uncovered to at least get past summary judgment. This usually results in the defense willing to discuss settlement. If you have a fall on ice or slip and fall case in general, do not lose hope. Even if you have talked to several lawyers, you may still have a claim. Feel free to give me a call at 651-705-9098 or shoot me a email at firstname.lastname@example.org.