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Rhode Island Appellate Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Black Ice Slip and Fall Case

Slip and falls are some of the most common types of accidents that Rhode Island residents can suffer in winter when the weather is extreme and creates many different hazards. A simple slip and fall accident can lead to long-lasting, painful, and devastating injuries. One of the most difficult aspects of recovering compensation in a slip and fall claim is showing that the defendant knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed. As seasoned Rhode Island slip and fall lawyers, we have substantial experience dealing with this issue and assisting injured residents with seeking compensation.

A recent appellate opinion illustrates this issue. The plaintiff alleged that he slipped and fell on a patch of black ice in a parking lot near his apartment building, which the defendant owned. He alleged that as a result of the fall, he experienced a torn rotator cuff that required surgery and that he was not able to work for many months as a result.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury action against the defendant, alleging that the defendant was negligent in how it maintained the premises. In an amended complaint, the plaintiff also alleged that the defendant had violated multiple provisions of the Landlord Tenant Act.

The matter proceeded to trial. At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case, the defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 50, arguing that the plaintiff failed to offer evidence that the defendant had notice that there was black ice. The trial court reserved its decision on the motion, and the defendant renewed the motion at the conclusion of its presentation of evidence. The lower court granted the motion and entered a judgment in the defendant’s favor. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court first stated the applicable standard of care. Under Rhode Island law, a property owner has a duty to use reasonable care to ensure the safety of persons who are reasonably expected to use the premises. This includes a duty to protect against dangerous conditions of which they are aware, or which through a reasonable exercise of diligence they should have discovered. Additionally, the Rhode Island Legislature has imposed a higher duty of care for landlords, requiring them to keep all common areas safe and clean.

Applied to the facts in the record, the appellate court found that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to keep the parking lot, which was a common area, in a safe condition. The plaintiff had testified at trial that the defendant routinely plowed snow onto a grassy area above the parking lot. The appellate court concluded that this conduct created a dangerous condition because the snow and ice would melt and run down to the parking lot area. When temperatures dipped below freezing, the water accumulated in the parking lot would freeze, creating black ice. As a result, the appellate court concluded that there was enough evidence to send the case to the jury. It vacated the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

If you’ve been injured as a result of a serious accident, the seasoned Rhode Island personal injury attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo are prepared to help you assert your right to financial compensation. We have assisted many victims in the area, and we understand how stressful, chaotic, and confusing this time is for you and your loved ones. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 401-300-4055 or contact us online.

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