Slip and Fall on Icy Steps at Apartment Building; Code Violations Alleged


Slip and Fall - Snowy StairsPlaintiff was walking out of her apartment when suddenly and without warning she lost her footing and fell backwards to the ground sustaining severe injuries. She alleges the fall was due to dangerous and hazardous ice and snow accumulation on the landing and steps. She alleges that the dangerous condition had existed for an appreciable time. No notice or warning of the condition was given.

Her complaint alleges the defendant apartment owner and other parties failed to properly design, construct, repair, operate, control, manage, inspect, maintain, and/or supervise the premises, its exterior stairs, entranceway, walkways and/or sidewalk; failed to conform to the Basic National Building Code, National Bureau of Standards, or the NFIPA Life Safety Code and failed to keep the premises in a safe condition.

Plaintiff alleges the fall caused severe, painful, disabling, and permanent injuries that will require expensive, long-term medical care.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What is the purpose of the 12-hour abatement provision in the code?
  • 2. How would ice melt have helped?
  • 3. Was the ice visible to the plaintiff?

Expert Witness Response

Subsequent to my earlier reports, I have had an opportunity to review the engineering report prepared by defendant’s engineering expert, who raised four issues regarding my earlier report.

His first issue relates to the 12 hours of daylight frame stated by the city in its municipal code to complete abatement of snow and ice after a snowfall. He states that the code does not require or define a timeframe for partial completion of the abatement within this time period and that no basis was provided to conclude that the abatement of snow and ice at any point within the 12-hour timeframe did not comply with the ordinance. The purpose of this code requirement is to abate the hazardous and dangerous condition of snow and ice on walking surfaces for the public. Given the timeframe available to abate the conditions requires the property owner to plan their work to accomplish the abatement within the 12 hours.

The defense expert also comments regarding the pre-treatment of ice melt material on the walking surfaces to either prevent or eliminate the formation of ice. It is clearly evident by the chemical content of the ice melt material in contact with moisture that once snow begins to fall it will reduce the amount of ice that forms by simply melting the snow. Additionally, depending on the amount of snow, it is capable of eliminating ice. Nonetheless, it is an attempt to demonstrate that the owner considered the safety of those who used the walking surfaces on the property.

The expert also addresses the issue of illumination and visibility of snow and ice. He claims that sufficient illumination was available for plaintiff to see the snow and ice-covered treads. It remains my opinion that although snow may have been present on the tread surfaces she was not aware of ice being underneath.

The expert comments on the services provided by the apartment owner, who was providing snow and ice abatement services in accordance with the Municipal Snow and Ice Removal ordinance on the date of this accident. However, it must be noted that he, as the owner of this residential structure, had an obligation to keep the means of egress in a safe condition. That is, in planning the snow and ice removal, consideration should have been given to the means of egress to make it as accessible and safe as possible within the shortest, reasonable amount of time. Seven hours after the end of the snowfall was an extremely long period of time to have not addressed the means of egress which engineers will recognize as a very important and sensitive portion of a property for the safety of those who use the property.

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