Winter weather conditions often lead to an increase in slip and fall accidents. In some cases, property owners may be liable for injuries that occur on their property.
A unique piece of legislation known as the Hills and Ridges Doctrine affects liability for Pennsylvania slip and fall accidents.
Hills and Ridges Doctrine
The Hills and Ridges Doctrine states that a person seeking compensation for a slip and fall injury due to winter weather conditions must prove three things to win the case:
- There was enough accumulation of ice and snow to form ridges and elevations of a large enough size to be an obstacle to travel and a danger to pedestrians
- The property owner knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed
- The accumulation of snow and ice caused the fall
The doctrine does not apply if the property owner’s negligence caused the hazard. For example, if the sidewalk was icy because the property owner didn’t drain a garden hose and it burst. It also does not apply to localized patches of ice and snow.
Property owner’s responsibility
Property owners must take reasonable measures to prevent the excessive accumulation of snow and ice on sidewalks. This may include actions such as shoveling snow, putting down sand, gravel or salt or marking dangerous areas with cones. Additionally, property owners must comply with any local snow removal laws.
The Hills and Ridges Doctrine recognizes that it is not practical for property owners to keep sidewalks clear of ice and snow at all times. However, property owners who allow snow and ice to accumulate for unreasonable amounts of time may have liability for injuries to persons who slip and fall on their property.