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Victim may be entitled to damages for a slip and fall during a snowstorm

Under Rhode Island law, a business has a duty to its tenants or its customers to clear accumulated snow and treat surfaces impacted by the weather.
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    February 06, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Under Rhode Island law, a business has a duty to its tenants or its customers to clear accumulated snow and treat surfaces impacted by the weather. An individual who slips and falls due to the negligence of the business may be entitled to compensation.

However, this duty related to clearing snow does not arise until a reasonable time after the end of the snowstorm. But what if a person slips during a snow storm, but the fall was not necessarily caused by the snow? The Rhode Island Supreme Court considered this question in the case of Sullo v. Greenberg.

A post-operative office visit . . . leads to a fall

The victim was a patient of the doctor, a podiatrist, who had been treating the victim for an injured tendon in her leg. After a surgery, the victim was returning to the doctor's office for a post-operative appointment. On that day, the weather was a mix of rain and snow, and as the victim attempted to enter the doctor's office on her crutches, she slipped on the wet wood of a walkway, causing her to fall hard on her already injured left leg and foot.

The victim later learned that the injuries to her leg and foot were permanent. She alleged that the severity and permanent nature of her injuries were a proximate result of the fall outside of doctor's office. The victim filed suit against the doctor, claiming that he was negligent in failing to treat the walkway.

Yet the trial court entered a summary judgment against the victim--ending the suit before she even had her full day in court--because the court believed there was "no question" that it had been snowing that day, and, under Rhode Island law, the doctor was justified in waiting until the storm had ended before taking action to treat his office entrance. The victim appealed this ruling, seeking her full day in court.

Snow? Or a wet surface?

The Rhode Island Supreme Court noted that, in this case, the victim had alleged that she fell on a wet walkway, rather than one covered with snow. In contrast, the doctor alleged that it was snowing at the time of the victim's appointment. Thus, a genuine issue of fact existed about the extent of the snow, if any, particularly at the location where the victim had fallen.

Therefore, additional factual findings were required to determine whether the doctor was under a duty to treat his entranceway before the storm had ended. The trial court's grant of summary judgment in the personal injury case was in error and was vacated, allowing the victim another day in court.

Advising you on your rights

If you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to payment for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, and more. However, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after the injury, so that your attorney can advise you on your rights. Seek an experienced attorney with the skills needed to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.

Article provided by The Law Office of Mark B. Morse
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