Earlier last month, an appellate court in Wyoming issued a written opinion applying the “natural accumulation” rule to affirm the dismissal of a plaintiff’s slip-and-fall lawsuit against a middle school. In essence, the rule prevents a landowner from being held liable for injuries occurring from the natural accumulation of snow or ice on their property. The court’s most recent opinion explained that the application of salt or snow-melt, while it alters the original condition of the snow, does not aggravate it.
The plaintiff was a middle-school student. After P.E. class, the plaintiff and some friends encountered a large patch of ice on school grounds. The students took turns running and sliding across the ice, seeing how far they could go and performing various “tricks” as they slid. On the plaintiff’s second turn, he slipped and fell to the ground, breaking a tooth and fracturing his nose.
The plaintiff, through his parents, filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school, arguing that it was negligent in allowing the accumulation of ice or failing to clear the ice. The trial court disagreed, determining that the school could not be held liable for the natural accumulation of ice. The plaintiff appealed.