Court Applies “Natural Accumulation” Rule in Affirming Dismissal of Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case

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 Facts of the Case

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.

The Case Is Affirmed on Appeal

On appeal, the court had the opportunity to further discuss the natural accumulation rule. The court explained that in general, a landowner cannot be held liable for the natural accumulation of snow or ice. However, that is not the case when the landowner creates the accumulation or alters the natural state of the snow or ice. Here, the court agreed that the school altered the state of the condition by applying a snow-melting agent.

Having established that the school altered the condition of the ice patch, the court then considered whether the school’s actions aggravated the condition. The court noted that the plaintiff did not present any evidence suggesting that the application of snow-melt made the condition worse and also that, as a matter of public policy, the application of snow-melt should not be discouraged. Thus, the court concluded that the school’s actions in applying snow-melt to the parking lot did not cause or aggravate the condition of the ice patch, and the natural accumulation rule still applied to protect the school.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Washington, D.C. has similar rules that act to protect landowners in some situations in which an injury occurs due to the natural accumulation of snow or ice on their land. However, whether these rules apply to a specific case is a matter that must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience helping injured clients seek the compensation they deserve. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

City Not Immune from Liability in Case Involving Stop Sign Obscured by Overgrown Foliage, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 17, 2017

Appellate Court Upholds $21 Million Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2017

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