Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow – Do You Have a Case?
Ohio residents have grown accustom to cold winters that often see accumulations of ice and snow. Unfortunately, these wintery conditions can lead to slip and falls on ice and snow that cause serious injuries and require medical treatment.
There are many legal misconceptions regarding slip and falls on ice in Ohio. While the foregoing is not meant to serve as an exhaustive analysis of Ohio law because each case presents a unique set of facts, we hope you will better understand your rights or responsibilities for both customers and businesses as it pertains to accumulations of ice and snow.
What Type of Visitor Are You?
Ohio law categorizes visitors into three categories: trespasser, licensee, or invitee. The status of the person who enters upon the land of another (i.e. trespasser, licensee, or invitee) defines the scope of the legal duty that the landowner owes the entrant. Invitees are persons who rightfully come upon the premises of another by invitation, express or implied, for some purpose which is beneficial to the owner. A customer on the property of a business owner will likely be considered a business invitee. However, if the customer’s presence in the business exceeds the scope of the business owner’s invitation, the customer will lose the status of a business invitee, and become either a licensee or trespasser.
What Duty Does the Business Owe to Customers?
A landowner owes a duty to an invitee to exercise ordinary care for the invitee’s safety and protection. Conversely, a landowner owes no duty to a licensee or trespasser except to refrain from willful, wanton, or reckless conduct which is likely to injure him. An owner or operator of a business premises owes its invitees a duty of ordinary care in maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition so that its patrons will not be unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to danger. Such a business owner is not an insurer of the customer’s safety.
The Ohio “Winter Rule.”
It has been held that in Ohio, the hazards of ice and snow are a part of winter. Generally, no liability will attach to the occupier of premises for a slip and fall occurring due to natural accumulations of ice or snow, these being deemed open and obvious hazards in Ohio’s climate, from which persons entering the premises must protect themselves. It is well-established under Ohio law that where a danger is open and obvious, a landowner owes no duty of care to customers lawfully on the premises. An occupier of a premises has no duty to remove natural accumulations of ice or snow. Ice accumulation when there is snow, however, is completely expected and thus, an individual should exercise appropriate caution.
Unnatural Accumulations of Ice and Snow
Business owners may be responsible for unnatural accumulations of ice and snow. An unnatural accumulation of ice or snow is one that has been created by causes and factors other than meteorological forces of nature such as the inclement weather conditions of low temperature, strong winds and drifting snow. Unnatural accumulations therefore are caused by the intervention of human action doing something that would cause ice and snow to accumulate in unexpected places and ways. Where a construction defect in the premises, existing for a sufficient time, causes injury to a pedestrian by creating an artificial condition such as an unreasonable accumulation of ice or snow on a walkway, the business owner is responsible for injuries to its customers. Ordinary thawing and freezing of snow or ice is typically not going to lead to a successful injury claim.
Defects Hidden by Snow or Ice
While Ohio law makes it challenging to bring a claim for personal injury caused by slip and falls on snow or ice, there are often dangers in walkways, parking lots or driveways that are hidden due to cover from snow or ice. These hidden dangers are not known to unsuspecting customers or entrants, but should be known to the business or property owner. As a result, the business or property owner will be at-fault if a customer or entrant is injured by the snow-covered or ice-covered danger. For example, a business owner was responsible for injuries to its customer when the customer fell in a seven-inch-deep hole covered by snow. While the business owner had knowledge of the snow-covered hole, the customer had no way to know of the hazard.
Under Ohio law, if you can make a successful personal injury claim as a result of a slip and fall on ice or snow, business owners are responsible to pay for injuries to their customers. Injured parties are entitled to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, past and future pain and suffering, past and future mental suffering, and past and future loss of enjoyment of life. You can read more about personal injury compensation here.
The personal injury layers at Cowan & Hilgeman have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Our lawyers create plans of attack for each case specific to the client’s needs and expectations. The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman will help maximize the value of your claim and fully explain the claim process throughout the entire case. We offer free case evaluations and only get paid an attorney fee if we win your case.