COA affirms for snow removal service in slip-and-fall case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a snow removal company sued by a woman in a slip-and-fall case was not required to apply salt to an apartment complex’s premises absent a specific request that it do so.

While picking up her grandchildren, Deborah Perez allegedly injured herself after she slipped and fell on ice covering the Bradford Place Apartments parking lot. Just two days before Perez’s fall, contractor Tri-Esco removed snow at Bradford with pickup trucks and plows, while Bradford employees applied nine bags of ice melt on the premises. Neither performed additional snow removal or salt application after that point.

According to Bradford’s services agreement with Tri-Esco, the latter was to remove snow and ice from the streets running through Bradford and the parking lot where Perez fell. If it snowed at least 2 inches, Tri-Esco was to clear the ice and snow at Bradford without an explicit request by Bradford’s management to do so. The agreement also provided that Tri-Esco would salt the driveways or parking lots only upon Bradford’s specific request. After removing the snow two days before her fall, Bradford did not request Tri-Esco to perform additional services.

Tri-Esco filed a motion for summary judgment after Perez sought damages for her injuries, claiming that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the designated evidence failed to establish that it had a duty to apply salt to the parking lot during the two days prior to her fall. It further claimed it was under no obligation to preemptively inspect and/or provide services to Bradford and, therefore, no duty was owed because it lacked any control over the premises.

Bradford subsequently appealed the grant of summary judgment to Tri-Esco, arguing the trial court erred because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Tri-Esco exercised reasonable care in performing the snow removal whether it was required to apply salt to the premises absent a specific request by Bradford that it do so.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected its argument, noting that no 2-inch snowfall took place before the fall to trigger further services from Tri-Esco under the agreement.

“Had Tri-Esco in some way created a dangerous condition on February 21, Bradford had two days to remedy such a circumstance through its own employees, or it could have requested Tri-Esco to apply additional salt to the affected areas,” Judge Robert Altice wrote for the appellate court. “With no additional work having been performed by Bradford, and no follow-up contact made to Tri-Esco for additional services, we cannot say that it was reasonably foreseeable to Tri-Esco that Perez would be injured two days after Tri-Esco completed its work.”

The appellate court further found Tri-Esco owed no duty to Perez as it had no control over Bradford’s parking lot at the time of the fall. It additionally rejected Bradford’s attempt to create a genuine issue of material fact in light of some conflicting provisions in the agreement, finding summary judgment may be proper when no dispute exists as to the facts that are dispositive of the litigation.

It therefore affirmed the trial court’s decision in Buckingham Management LLC, et al. v. Tri-Esco, Inc., 19A-CT-657.

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