Delaware Top Court Upholds Slip-and-fall Lawsuit Dismissal - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Top Court Upholds Slip-and-fall Lawsuit Dismissal

Posted: Jan 09, 2018 3:14 PM Updated:
(Photo: CBS) (Photo: CBS)

DOVER, Del. (AP/WBOC)- The Delaware Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed over a slip-and-fall accident at a Dover gas station during freezing rain four years ago.

WBOC media partner the Delaware State News reports that Justice James T. Vaughn Jr. issued a 15-page opinion on Monday confirming a Superior Court's finding that Speedway, LLC bore no liability for Michael Laine's injurious fall. The Supreme Court cited past case law and the state's continuing storm doctrine, which allows businesses to wait until a storm ends to clear ice and snow.

According to court papers, Laine sustained serious injuries on Jan. 10, 2014 when falling while stepping from a Modern Maturity Center shuttle bus he was driving. He had argued that the business should have inspected for icing and warned customers of the ice, or should not have opened at all.

However, Vaughn cited the “impracticability or ineffectiveness” of continually removing snow and ice accumulations as a storm continued.

“There is no evidence before us that Speedway could have effectively removed the ice from around its gasoline pumps, by some means, while the freezing rain continued to fall,” the court determined.

Vaughn also noted the value of gas stations, convenience stores and pharmacies being open during storms is evident through providing gasoline, food, water, and medicine.

“Inviting litigation over how often one has to salt or shovel during an active storm could be costly and lead businesses to shut down, for fear of suits,” he said. “This could be detrimental to the many who must travel in active storm situations.”

The court also recognized that sometimes bad things happen and there is nobody to blame. 

“As sad as the plaintiff’s injuries were, the reality is that there is no foolproof way to avoid the risk of slipping on ice,” Vaughn wrote. “Some injuries are not the legal fault of anyone, they are just the result of the reality that nothing in life is entirely safe, and surely not walking on ice or snow...That does not mean that these injuries are not important and unfortunate …”

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