• Continuing Storm Doctrine Applies to Landowners and Their Independent Contractors. Landowner Does Not Owe a Common Law Duty to Prevent Accumulation of Snow and Ice.
  • April 27, 2017 | Author: Jessica L. Tyler
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Wilmington Office
  • Day v. Wilcox Landscaping, Inc., et al., No. N15C-06-277 AML, 2017 Del. Super. LEXIS 97 (Del. Super. Ct. Feb. 28, 2017)

    The plaintiff was injured at her place of employment when she slipped on ice in the parking lot during a storm. She sued the snow and ice contractors, alleging her injuries were proximately caused by their failure to maintain the premises in a safe condition, inspect the area, warn of the condition, and exercise reasonable care in discharging their contractual duty to clear snow and ice. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of the Continuing Storm Doctrine, which suspends a landowner’s duty of care to clear snow and ice from its property during an ongoing storm. The plaintiff advanced several arguments opposing their motion, including: (1) the doctrine should not apply to independent contractors; (2) if it does, they assumed a duty per the contract; (3) the Restatement of Torts §324 imposes duties upon them; and (4) the contractors violated a duty of care by failing to pre-treat the parking lot and sidewalks. On the last point, the court explained there is no common law duty owed by a landowner to prevent snow and ice from accumulating. Regardless, the contract did not provide or permit pre-storm efforts. The court found the plaintiff’s arguments to be “fundamentally at odds” with the doctrine and the policy underlying it and granted the defendants’ motion.