What happens when a person or organization fails to clear away snow and ice, and someone falls and gets hurt in Oklahoma? Is the property owner responsible for the injury? Oklahoma law attempts to answer these questions, but legal decisions about liability for this type of case are not always clear. You have to prove that the actions, or inaction, of the property owner was what lead to the injury – not always easy to do when dealing with natural events like snow and ice accumulation.
Understanding Premises Liability and Winter Injuries
Slip and fall cases, whether due to ice and snow, broken sidewalks or wet floors, are referred to as premises liability cases. This designation refers to the idea that the owner of a property is responsible for keeping that property relatively safe. Keeping the property, or premises, free from hazards like unmarked wet floors or broken walking surfaces like sidewalks, is something that the community expects from the property owner. If he or she fails to keep the property safe, and someone is hurt on that property, the owner may be liable for those injuries.
When you are hurt on someone’s property, you have the option of pursuing a premises liability case against the owner. However, to actually win a case you need to be able to prove that the owner was actually responsible. This is easier to do in certain circumstances, like with an unmarked wet floor. If the owner has a habit of leaving the floors wet and not notifying patrons, there is an obvious and easily proven act of negligence. But falls related to ice and snow are not always so straightforward.
Oklahoma case law holds that landlord liability does not result from the natural accumulation of ice or snow. Ice and snow falls regardless of the will or actions of the landlord, making it unreasonable to hold him or her responsible for injuries that occur from that ice or snow. This means that the fact that ice and snow is present, and that you fall and get hurt because of that snow and ice, does not necessarily mean you have a case.
On the other hand, Oklahoma law does take issue with a property owner that creates a hazard or does something to enhance an existing hazard. This is why the unmarked wet floor scenario is easier to prove. The hazard was created by the property owner, so he or she is liable for the harm it caused. With snow and ice related injuries, you need to be able to prove that the actions of the landlord created a hazard, or made an existing hazard more dangerous.
Oklahoma Slip and Fall Cases Due to Ice Accumulation
There have been several legal cases that have made it to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in recent years that were concerned with this type of accident. In both cases, the court ruled in favor of the property owner. These cases demonstrate the challenge of winning a slip and fall case related to ice and snow accumulation.
Krokowski v. Henderson National Corp.
In 1996, the Oklahoma Supreme Court heard the case of a tenant of Warwick West Apartments, owned by Henderson National Corp. The tenant was hurt when he fell on some ice that had accumulated on the grounds of the apartment complex. He argued that the landlord had placed a drainpipe in such a way that it led to increased ice accumulation, which led to his injury.
The court determined that there was not enough evidence to prove that the landlord had taken actions that made the ice accumulation worse. It fell back on the previously mentioned case law, determining that the landlord could not be held liable for natural ice accumulation.
Dover v. W. H. Braum, Inc.
In this 2005 case, a woman slipped and fell on some ice on the steps of a Braum’s restaurant. She argued that Braum’s was responsible for the ice accumulation, and therefore for her injuries.
The court determined that Braum’s was not responsible. In its decision, it said that the woman knew the weather conditions, and that Braum’s had, again, done nothing to create or enhance the hazard.
Responsibility is Key
When you are hurt in a slip and fall accident related to winter weather conditions, you face additional challenges beyond a normal slip and fall case. This is why it is so important to contact an experienced lawyer when you are hurt. If the property owner was truly at fault, and it can be proven, then you can get compensation for your injuries. But you have to make sure you can prove it. Call us today at (405) 703-4567 to get started.