Injured Plaintiff Presents Sufficient Facts to Overcome Summary Judgment in Snow/Ice Slip-and-Fall Personal Injury Case

In Rodriguez v. Woods (a snow/ice slip-and-fall case) the Appellate Division, First Department reversed summary judgment for defendant City of New York. Plaintiff sued to recover for injuries sustained when she fell on an icy sidewalk.

The main dispute in this case was “whether plaintiff raised an issue of fact as to whether the ice on which she slipped formed within a sufficient amount of time prior to the accident for the City to have cleared it.”

Generally, “snow and ice left on a sidewalk after a storm can constitute an ‘unusual and dangerous condition.'” Furthermore, “[s]ummary judgment in a snow or ice case is proper where a defendant demonstrates, through climatological data and expert opinion, that the weather conditions would preclude the existence of snow or ice at the time of the accident” (emphasis added by court).

The court held that the City’s motion should have been denied for the sole reason that it failed to offer an expert opinion. Furthermore:

[T]he climatological reports showed that, except for a few hours of above-freezing temperatures and non-freezing rain, temperatures generally remained below freezing for the entire period between the December 19 storm and the accident four days later. Plaintiff’s expert opined that these conditions were suitable for the ice that formed as a result of the initial storm to remain, but not for the formation of new ice, which the City would have had insufficient time to clear. Without an expert to interpret the meteorological record in a way that would disprove this theory, the City failed to establish a right to judgment as a matter of law.

However, even if defendant had made a prima facie case for summary judgment, plaintiff would have still won, because she raised an issue of fact through her submissions.

Specifically, her expert meteorologist’s affidavit was not properly characterized by the motion court as “all speculation”; rather “[i]t was based on undisputed meteorological records, took plaintiff’s description of the ice into account, and explained how the meteorological events led to the formation of that particular patch of ice.”

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