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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Delaware Supreme Court affirms lower court’s decision in parking lot slip-and-fall case

Lawsuits

By Sandra Lane | Sep 21, 2018

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WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) – A lawsuit filed over injuries sustained in a fall on an icy parking lot was dismissed because the judge ruled that the plaintiff had failed to present enough evidence to prove her claims.

Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. and two colleagues on the Delaware Supreme Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Sept. 5, upholding a similar decision previously made in the Delaware Superior Court.

This cause of legal action began when Andrea Ridgeway slipped on some ice in the parking lot outside Acme Markets. As a result, she filed suit against Acme Markets, as well as the property manager, Fox Run Shopping Center. She also included Cipolloni Bros. LLC, the company hired to remove ice and snow from the parking lot.

After both sides had presented their arguments to the Superior Court, the three defendants requested a declaration of summary judgment because they said Ridgeway had not proven in her arguments that these three companies were actually liable for anything. 

They also said that Ridgeway had produced no expert witness to testify as to what would be the industry standards for maintaining a safe parking lot free of ice and snow. They said that the jury members would be unable to determine those standards on their own.

Ridgeway said that it was not necessary to produce an expert witness on this subject and that jury members were capable of deciding this issue using their own reasoning capabilities. The Superior Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment in this instance.

Ridgeway then filed an appeal in the Delaware Supreme Court, still maintaining that there was no need for an expert witness because she said “it is within a juror’s common knowledge to access the standard of care for snow and ice removal,” as stated in the court’s opinion. 

This met with the same response from the Supreme Court as had been received in the Superior Court.

“We find that after the defendants presented evidence at the summary judgment stage of the steps the contractor took to treat the parking lot over multiple days, Ridgeway then had to raise a disputed issue of material fact regarding the defendants’ negligence. She failed to do so. Thus, we affirm the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendants,” Seitz wrote.

“The defendants met their initial burden of showing reasonable measures to address ice and snow in the parking lot. It was then up to Ridgeway to present some evidence—by expert testimony or otherwise—on how the defendants breached their duty of care. Having failed to do so, summary judgment was properly granted to the defendants,”  Seitz wrote.

Justices James T. Vaughn Jr. and Karen L. Valihura concurred with this decision.

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