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A property owner will be held liable for a slip-and-fall accident involving snow and ice on its property only when it created the dangerous condition which caused the accident or had actual or constructive notice thereof.
In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, etc., plaintiffs, an allegedly injured party and others, challenged an order of the Supreme Court, Queens County (New York), which granted separate motions of defendants, a company and others, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against them. The allegedly injured party claimed that he slipped and fell on a patch of "black ice" in defendants' driveway.
Was the order granting the separate motions for summary judgment proper?
The appeals court found that in opposition to defendants' prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, plaintiffs failed to establish that defendants either created the complained of condition, or had actual or constructive notice thereof. Significantly, the allegedly injured party stated that he did not notice any ice in the area where he fell prior to his fall, and that he safely traversed this very area only minutes before the accident occurred. In view of this testimony, as well as the other facts and circumstances of the case, plaintiffs' contention that defendants had notice of the "black ice" or that said condition was the result of improper snow removal was conclusory and speculative, and thus insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact. Similarly, the conclusion reached by plaintiffs' expert was also insufficient to raise a material issue of fact because a close reading of the affidavit revealed that it merely addressed general conditions in the vicinity rather than the origin of the specific ice on which the alleged fall occurred.