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Posts Tagged ‘Accredited Snow Contractors Association’

The Pennsylvania Superior Court Rules that Snow Contractors Qualify for Liability-Limiting “Hills and Ridges” Doctrine

Posted on: September 18th, 2019

By: Justine Baakman

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently reaffirmed a snow contractor’s protection from liability during ongoing snow events.  More specifically, the plaintiff initiated a personal injury suit in Pennsylvania state court after slipping and falling on snow in the early morning hours during an ongoing snow event.  The plaintiff arrived on the subject property – an industrial complex – around 5:30am on the date in question.  It was during his walk in the parking lot that he slipped and fell on unplowed snow totaling between 5 ½ and 6 inches.  Notably, the plaintiff did not dispute that his fall occurred during an ongoing snow event.

Prior to the start of the snow event at issue, the property owner had entered into a contract with a snow removal company to perform snow and ice removal services.  On the date at issue, that snow contractor had begun performing services approximately one hour prior to the plaintiff’s fall.  However, snow removal services were not fully completed by the time the plaintiff arrived on the property – primarily due to the ongoing nature of the snow event.

Following the close of discovery, the snow contractor filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the “hills and ridges” doctrine protected it from liability for the plaintiff’s alleged injury.  More specifically, the snow contractor argued that the “hills and ridges” doctrine – which protects owners or occupiers of land from liability for generally slippery conditions as the result of snow and ice if the owner or occupier has not permitted that snow and ice to unreasonably accumulate into ridges or elevations – protected it from liability for the plaintiff’s alleged injury as a function of the ongoing nature of the snow event in question.

After hearing oral argument on the issues, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the snow contractor.  The plaintiff appealed that ruling to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, arguing that the trial court erred in applying the “hills and ridges” doctrine to the snow contractor because the contractor did not own or occupy the land.  Therefore, the plaintiff argued, the snow contractor did not qualify for liability protection under the “hills and ridges” doctrine.

In reaffirming the trial court’s granting of summary judgment, the Pennsylvania Superior Court noted that it is well-established Pennsylvania law that an independent contractor in possession of an area of land necessary to perform its work under a contract replaces the owner of the property while performing that work.  During that time, the independent contractor assumes the responsibilities and obligations of the property owner while the property owner foregoes its right to possess and control the land.

As such, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reasoned, the snow contractor at issue was operating as an independent contractor in possession and control of the subject property at the time of the plaintiff’s fall.  Therefore, it was entitled to the protections offered by the “hills and ridges” doctrine to occupiers and possessors of land. As such, the snow contractor was entitled to the granting of summary judgment due to the ongoing nature of the snow event at issue.  The court’s decision was a key one for snow contractors, allowing them to continue to utilize this important defense.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the “hills and ridges” doctrine, please contact Justine Baakman at [email protected].

Connecticut Governor Signs Anti-Indemnity Law for Snow and Ice Management Contracts

Posted on: July 23rd, 2019

By: Marc Finkel

Connecticut recently became the third state, joining Illinois and Colorado, to pass legislation prohibiting certain indemnity and hold harmless clauses within snow and ice management services contracts.  An Act Concerning Snow and Ice Control Services Contracts (“the Act”) was signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont on July 12, 2019.  The Act forbids a service receiver from including provisions within snow and ice removal contracts that: (1) requires a service provider to indemnify a service receiver for acts not required under the terms of a snow and ice removal contract; or (2) requires a service provider to hold a service receiver harmless for the acts or omissions of the service receiver or its agents or employees.

The Accredited Snow Contractors Association has championed the passage of this legislation and has advocated for the passage of similar legislation throughout the United States.  Anti-indemnity legislation, such as the Act, has the anticipated benefit of ensuring that property owners and/or managers maintain adequate treatment for their roadways and sidewalks following a snow or ice event by forbidding the transfer of contractual defense and indemnity for the property owner or manager’s own negligence.  Additionally, the Act could also help to lower insurance premiums for snow and ice removal contractors by limiting tenders of contractual defense and indemnity by property owners and/or management companies.

Josh Ferguson and Marc Finkel of Freeman Mathis and Gary will join Kevin Gilbride of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association to discuss the Act at ASCA Snow Academy: Operating Under the New Law on August 20, 2019 at the Hartford/Windsor Marriott Airport Hotel in Windsor, CT. We look forward to seeing you there.

For further information on the Act or for inquiries involving hospitality or premises liability law, please contact Marc Finkel at [email protected].

Colorado Limits Risk Transfer for Snow and Ice Management Services

Posted on: June 13th, 2018

By: Josh Ferguson

Colorado becomes the second state to recently pass an anti-indemnity bill regarding snow and ice management service contracts.  The Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act has passed in Colorado and been signed into law by the Governor. The Act provides that it is against public policy and void for a snow and ice removal contract to require a snow and ice management service provider or receiver to: (1) indemnify the other for their own acts or omissions; (2) hold the other harmless for their own acts or omissions; or (3) impose a duty to defend the other for their own acts or omissions. Similar legislation is pending in many other states as indicated by Accredited Snow Contractors Association President Kevin Gilbride.

The Accredited Snow Contractors Association has noted several anticipated benefits to this legislation for the snow and ice management contractors. First, prohibiting transfer of contractual defense and indemnity for a property owner or manager’s own negligence, the property owner and/or manager has an increased reason to make sure the roadways and sidewalks are adequately treated.  Additionally, a potential side effect this statute could have is lowering ever increasing insurance premiums for snow and ice removal contractors by avoiding those tenders of contractual defense and indemnity.

For further information or for further inquiries involving hospitality or premises liability law, you may contact Josh Ferguson of Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP, at [email protected].