Minnesota is a land of seasons. Here, snow and ice in the wintertime are quite common, as much so as humidity and mosquitos are in the summertime. As for snow and ice, it is common knowledge that it can, at times, be slippery. And people do, sometimes, slip and fall on the ice, in the wintertime, in Minnesota. That is precisely what happened in this case, in which attorneys Deborah Eckland and Matt Nelson successfully defended a townhome complex and its owner to secure dismissal of Plaintiff’s negligence claims with prejudice on Summary Judgment.
Plaintiff fell in the parking lot of her townhome complex in late December, after a series of snow and freezing rain storms moved through the area during the preceding weeks. Management worked to keep pace with the succession of winter storms but, as is inevitable in Minnesota, some snow and ice clung to the parking lot pavement surface. We’ve all seen it on area sidewalks, parking lots, and other outside walking surfaces, when the winter storms come and the temperatures dip. Plaintiff was no exception.
On the day in question, Plaintiff left her home coatless and in short-sleeves to rush to the building office. On her way out, she saw some ice and snow in the parking lot. Being familiar with wintertime ice and snow, Plaintiff traversed it with caution. On her way back to her home, however, Plaintiff had become cold, and she hastily neglected to use the same caution she had observed just moments earlier. As a result, Plaintiff slipped, fell, and unfortunately sustained injuries. Plaintiff alleged her injuries had ripened from risks (i.e., the hazards presented by ice and snow, in the wintertime, in Minnesota) that the townhome complex and its owner were under a duty to protect her against.
On Summary Judgment, attorneys Deborah Eckland and Matt Nelson argued that the snow and ice in the parking lot were open and obvious conditions and, as such, the townhome complex and its owner owed no duty to protect Plaintiff from the associated risks. Plaintiff’s own conduct left no genuine question that the condition was open and obvious. In particular, Plaintiff saw, recognized, and appreciated the risks posed by the snow and ice on her way out (when she used ordinary caution), but ignored what she saw, recognized, and appreciated on her way back to her home (when she neglected to watch her step). The Minnesota district court agreed, concluding that the snow and ice were open and obvious conditions, and the townhome complex and its owner owed no duty to protect Plaintiff from the associated risks. Plaintiff’s claims were dismissed with prejudice.