Slip and Fall on Black Ice in North Carolina

snow and iceIn North Carolina, property owners must use reasonable care to make their property safe for lawful visitors. Whether a property owner’s actions to make the property safe are reasonable are judged against the actions of reasonably prudent people under the circumstances.

There’s no duty to safeguard a lawful visitor from dangers that are either known to him or so obvious and apparent the owner can reasonably expect a visitor to discover them. Property owners are not expected to ensure their visitors’ safety, however. If you suffer a slip and fall, it is important to photograph the area and figure out which dangerous condition caused your fall, as illustrated by the following case.

In Skipper v. Wayne Oil Company, a North Carolina plaintiff appealed after the court granted summary judgment in a slip and fall case. The plaintiff was a foreman from Tennessee who installed cell phone towers and was building one in North Carolina. When he left his hotel on the morning of the accident, he crossed the parking lot of the defendant’s gas station. The parking lot didn’t look slippery, so he went into the convenience store and bought various items. As he left and returned the way he came, he slipped and rolled his ankle. He fell. The pain worsened as he walked back to the hotel.

He asked the hotel desk clerk to call an ambulance. and it turned out he’d broken his ankle in multiple places. He needed two surgeries to fix his ankle and continued to suffer pain by the time he was deposed in his slip and fall lawsuit. He sued the defendant, claiming the defendant’s negligence caused his fall on black ice, and as a result, he suffered serious injuries. At trial, the defendant’s maintenance worker testified he’d seen salt on the sidewalks when he got there that morning, but he salted other parts of the lot and sidewalk where he thought people would walk.

Summary judgment was granted for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. He argued that he believed there was enough evidence to find that the defendant failed to adequately prevent his fall on black ice or warn him about it.

The appellate court disagreed. It explained usually issues of negligence aren’t determined through summary judgment. However, in this case, the plaintiff hadn’t presented evidence to even show he actually slipped on ice. He walked across the lot and went into the store, and he didn’t slip on ice or even think the lot was slippery. On the return path, he fell. He reported to employees he had slipped on ice at the time of the accident, but he actually wasn’t certain what caused him to slip. The cashier had seen a little bit of ice around the lot, but it was thin and not visible where the plaintiff had fallen.

The appellate court reasoned that the plaintiff had to show he actually slipped on ice to recover compensation. The evidence he did have didn’t show a causal connection between the plaintiff’s injury and negligent conduct by the defendant. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order.

If you were hurt in a slip and fall on somebody else’s property, the experienced premises liability attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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