Under New York law, those who operate businesses that have parking lots, sidewalks, or steps attached to their premises have certain duties to those who use those areas to walk into the owner’s shop, store, or other establishment in order to conduct business. As is typical in personal injury lawsuits, the burden of proof in a Syracuse premises liability lawsuit is on the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. In many cases, however, the defendant will attempt to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed prior to trial via a motion for summary judgment. In cases involving snow and ice, the defendant may argue that the accident happened during a storm and that, thus, it should not be held liable for the accident. In such a situation, it is up to the defendant to provide credible evidence of the weather conditions at the time of the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who allegedly slipped and fell in a snowy parking lot owned by the defendant convenience store. She filed suit in the Supreme Court of Niagara County, seeking compensation for her injuries. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty to clear the snow and ice upon which the plaintiff fell because there was still a storm in progress at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant filed an appeal.
Decision of the Court
The New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s summary judgment motion. In so holding, the court noted that the defendant relied primarily upon a meteorologist’s affidavit to the effect that it was still snowing in the town in which the accident occurred at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. In reviewing this affidavit, the appellate division pointed out that the records upon which the defendant’s expert relied were taken from three other towns – not the town in which the plaintiff fell. In opposition to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff offered a different meteorologist’s report, in which the meteorologist opined that there was no way to state within a reasonable degree of professional certainty whether or not it was snowing at the time in question in the town in which the plaintiff fell.