Kentucky Court rules in favor of landowner in fall on ice lawsuit

by Mandy Hicks

Each year, thousands of people are injured in fall accidents. According to statistics maintained by the Center for Disease Control, a significant percentage of these accidents result in serious injury or even death. The case we are examining in this blog post was a fall on ice.

In situations in which a person falls on someone else’s property and is injured, he or she may be able to bring a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the property, if the landowner’s negligence contributed to the accident. If successful, the plaintiff in such a lawsuit may be able to recover medical expenses, lost wages, compensation for pain and suffering, and other damages.

The Facts of the Case

In the recent case of Reed v. Weber, the plaintiff was a man who slipped and fell on ice that had accumulated overnight when he was visiting a friend who lived in an apartment owned by the defendant. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, asserting that the defendant had been negligent in his maintenance of the premises where the fall occurred. The Kenton Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the defendant, holding that natural outdoor hazards that were obvious to an invitee did not constitute an unreasonable risk such that the property owner should have either removed the hazard or warned the invitee about the hazard. The plaintiff appealed.

The Decision on Appeal

In a not-to-be-published opinion, the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, agreeing with the plaintiff that summary judgment was inappropriate. The court first noted that the 2015 decision of Carter v. Bullitt Host, LLC had changed Kentucky law with regard to cases concerning natural hazards such as ice and snow. Prior to Carter, the “open and obvious” doctrine served as a frequent bar to recovery for plaintiffs in premises liability lawsuits, even though Kentucky had otherwise moved from a contributory negligence rule to a comparative fault approach in determining the impact of a plaintiff’s own responsibility for his or her injuries.

With the case of Shelton v. Easter Seals Society, Inc. in 2013, the Kentucky courts began moving away from the idea of open and obvious as a complete bar to recovery, at least in cases concerning man-made hazards, and toward the allegedly open and obvious nature of a particular hazard being only one of many factors to consider in determining negligence in a premises liability case.

Insofar as the Carter case extended the new rule to cases involving naturally occurring hazards, such as the snow and ice that allegedly led to the plaintiff’s injury in this case, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the defendant. Since genuine issues of material fact remained, the appellate court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Get Help with Your Injury Case

If you or a member of your family has been hurt or died because of the negligent conduct of a landowner (or other individual, business, or governmental entity), the knowledgeable Kentucky personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley will be glad to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Call us at (270) 781-6500 to set up an appointment. We help clients throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, including in Bowling Green, Franklin, Morgantown, Central City, Brownsville, Russellville, Springfield, and Clarksville.

Related Blog Posts:

Woman’s death from fall into glass display case does not constitute premises liability

Kentucky Court examines slip and fall injury case, ruling in favor of the injured