Lack of Inspection Services Generates $95K Settlement

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Cautionary tale involves a plaintiff who suffered a broken wrist after a slip and fall on black ice in Hartford, Conn.- area restaurant parking lot.

July 27, 2020

A South Windsor, Conn., restaurant group recently learned a hard lesson when it comes to the importance of hiring a qualified snow professional to provide daily wintertime monitoring and inspection services on its property.

In Kehoe v. The Mill, Inc., et al. (HHD-CV-18-6100951-S) Plaintiff Jeanne Kehoe slipped and fell on black ice while walking in the parking lot of The Mill on the River restaurant. As a result of her fall, Kehoe suffered a broken left wrist which required surgery.

According to court records, Kehoe later learned the restaurant owners did not retain the services of a qualified snow professional to provide daily property inspections to ensure the parking lot was properly being treated for icy conditions. Instead, the restaurant owners relied on their employees to report on any ice they observed in the parking lot. Furthermore, a meteorologist hired by Kehoe determined that the last period of precipitation in the South Windsor area ended more than 13 hours before she fell, and that the weather conditions over that same time period was such that it caused any accumulated precipitation to freeze.

Plaintiffs in Connecticut can have a difficult time with respect to the litigation of slip and falls caused by snow and ice conditions due to both the law related to ongoing storms and the skepticism of jurors used to harsh New England winters, says Marc Finkel, a partner in the in the Boston, Providence, and New Haven offices of Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP. However, he says the plaintiff in this case was able to get over those hurdles and receive a $95,000 pre-trial settlement due in large part to the restaurant group’s failure to take reasonable precautionary measures with respect to the maintenance of their parking lot.

This case serves as a cautionary tale for those commercial property owners who choose not to invest in daily wintertime monitoring and inspection services, Finkel says. For every slip-and-fall case that might appear suspicious, there are many legitimate cases involving serious injuries, he says, and those cases can have a catastrophic impact on a business.

Finkel suggests reminding commercial property owners that hiring a qualified snow professional to conduct daily wintertime monitoring and inspection services and to properly document the services provided is a solid business practice to avoid situations that are similar to those faced by the owners of The Mill on the River restaurant.