Icy Parking Lot Slip and Falls: Who is Responsible?
As Mainers know, winter can present dangerous situations for pedestrians. Icy sidewalks and parking lots can cause people to slip and fall, often leading to severe injuries. This is exactly what happened to Mainer Marilyn Davis when she slipped and fell in the parking lot of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center (SMRMC) where she worked.
Prior to the fall, SMRMC hired RC & Sons Paving (RC & Sons) to plow and sand its parking areas and sidewalks. At the time Davis fell, RC & Sons was still plowing but had yet to begin sanding. As a result, Davis slipped on a patch of untreated ice and fractured her hip.
Maine slip and fall accident resulted in broken hip
Despite her severe injuries, Davis was unable to sue her employer because she received Worker’s Compensation. In general, employees who are injured at work are able to receive Worker’s Compensation benefits, but then lose the right to sue their employer for personal injuries. Instead, Davis filed suit against RC & Sons, claiming that the plow company’s negligence had caused her injuries.
One of the main issues in this case was the issue of duty. In order to win a negligence claim a plaintiff must first establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Duty can be thought of as a legal obligation which requires one person to show a particular level of care towards another person under certain circumstances. If it is found that the defendant owed the plaintiff no duty of care, as was the case here, then the defendant will not be held liable, or responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
At trial Davis argued that RC & Sons had breached its duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions in the hospital’s parking lot. Under Maine law “a possessor of land owes a duty to use reasonable care to all persons lawfully on the premises.” However, because RC & Sons did not “possess” or “own” the land, the Court reasoned that the plowing company did not owe Davis a duty of care, and therefore was not liable for her injuries.
Though the Court ultimately concluded that RC & Sons was not liable in this case, the Court nonetheless acknowledged an exception where liability could still exist under similar circumstances. In its discussion, the Court noted that if RC & Sons had created the unsafe condition which caused Davis to fall, then it could be found liable for her injuries. However, because the unsafe condition was merely untreated, rather than created by RC & Sons, the Court ruled that the company was not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Maine premises liability lawyers can answer your questions
In other words, though a plaintiff may be unable to sue a land owner in certain circumstances (e.g. their employer), a plaintiff my still be able to recover from a negligent third party if they can prove that the third party created the unsafe condition which caused their injury.
If you or a loved one has been hurt on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to substantial damages to cover your medical bills, lost salary and more. Please contact the Maine slip and fall attorneys at Hardy, Wolf & Downing to learn more about your legal rights. We offer free legal consultations to accident victims in Lewiston, Bangor, Auburn, Portland and throughout Maine. Call today: 1-800-INJURED.