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Duty of Care for Slip and Fall Injuries after Maryville’s Biggest Snow Storm Since ’93 — Barbaglia v. Nonconnah Holdings, LLC.

We have survived the snow. According to the Maryville Daily Times, last week’s snow dump was the largest in over twenty years. With snow comes an increased risk of sustaining an injury from a slip and fall.

If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, it is recommended that you speak with a local slip and fall lawyer to help you get the compensation you need to recover from your injuries.

With the snow, many Maryville and Knoxville property owners and residents are thinking about the responsibility of keeping their properties free of snow and ice. We can look at Tennessee court rulings on the standard of care as it concerns property owners to shed some light.

Barbaglia v. Nonconnah Holdings
In a recent federal district court ruling under substantive Tennessee law, the court looked at the duty and breach of duty as they pertain to removal of ice during a inclement period of weather. In Barbaglia v. Nonconnah Holdings, LLC., local weather reports had warned of icy conditions due to patterns of moisture and freezing. An employee working in a store of a business park, fell on a patch of ice while walking to work at 5 a.m. in the morning. The ice had accumulated due to the weather, and the property owner had been aware of patches of ice occurring in the days preceding the slip and fall. There was some dispute as to whether the property owner had laid patches of salt on previous occurrences of ice.

The injured employee filed a premises liability claim against the property owner for failing to remove the hazardous natural accumulation of ice. The property owner brought a motion to dismiss, arguing that they did not have a duty to remove the patch of ice and, if they had a duty, missing one patch of ice at 5 a.m. in the morning did not breach t duty of care.

Duty in Tennessee
In premises liability cases due to snow or ice removal, plaintiffs in Tennessee must prove elements beyond the standard negligence elements. The plaintiff must also show that the property owner caused the danger or the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. Constructive knowledge can be proven by showing a pattern of conduct by the property owner that a reasonable person would have foreseen the hazard of the snow or ice. Constructive knowledge can also be proven when the length of time the snow or ice remained shows that the property owner should have become aware of the hazard.

In Barbaglia, the court held that a reasonable jury could conclude that recurring weather conditions and a pattern of inaction could support a finding of constructive notice that winter weather hazards may exist on an owner’s property. A property owner would have to bring meaningful evidence to show that they did not have constructive notice of a potential danger due to snow or ice accumulation.

Breach in Tennessee
In determining whether a property owner breaches a duty of care for failing to remove natural accumulations of snow or ice, Tennessee courts will weigh several factors, including (1) the length of time the snow or ice remained, (2) the amount of accumulation of snow or ice, (3) whether the accumulation could be removed as a practical matter, (4) the costs and burdens of snow removal, and (5) the foreseeability of injury to a lawful entrant.

In weighing these factors, courts are trying to prevent putting a property owner in a position of mitigating every hazard on their property. It would be an impossible imposition to require removal of every patch of snow and ice during inclement weather patterns. In breaching a standard of care that society expects, they are required to take ordinary measures to prevent hazards on their property, but they are not required to take “extraordinary” measures.

In the current case, the court found that during an inclement weather period, the failure of a property owner to remove one patch of ice at 5 a.m. was reasonable. To require every patch of ice be removed during the period would be too much of a burden on the property owner. The court dismissed the claim since the plaintiff failed to prove the property owner breached the duty to keep a property free of the patch of ice that caused the injury.

During snow storms and other weather patterns, it is a matter of neighborly respect to keep the portion of our property, where the public has to pass, free from ice and snow. Unfortunately, not every property owner considers the difficulties or potential hazards caused by their negligence of keeping their property free of hazards. If you have been injured by the hazards of another’s property, you should speak with an experienced premises liability lawyer that can get you the compensation you deserve.

If you have suffered injury due to a slip and fall on another’s property, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657.

Additional Resources:
Barbaglia v. Nonconnah Holdings, LLC., Jul. 17, 2013, United States District Court, Tennessee

Maryville Weather, Maryville Daily Times

More Blog Entries:
Tennessee Premise Liability Lawsuit Goes to High Court, Jun. 19, 2013, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

Holidays a Dangerous time for Fall Accidents in Tennessee, Nov. 4, 2012, Knoxville Injury Lawyer Blog

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