Court Applies the “Continuing Storm Doctrine,” Dismissing Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case, raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Virginia slip-and-fall cases. Specifically, the court was tasked with determining whether a business owner was reasonable in waiting until a storm passed to clear ice deposited by the storm. Applying what has come to be known as the continuing storm doctrine, the court determined that the business owner was entitled to wait a reasonable time until after the storm to clear any snow or ice left behind.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was employed as a driver for a retirement home. Primarily, the plaintiff operated a shuttle van that was used to transport residents. On one particularly rainy and cold day, the plaintiff stopped to get gas at the defendant gas station at around 7:00 a.m. At this point in time, the gas station had been open for about an hour.

As the defendant exited the shuttle to fill up the gas tank, he slipped on a patch of ice that was undisputedly caused by the freezing rain. As it turns out, moments before the plaintiff slipped and fell, a gas station employee had fallen on the ice. The employee notified her supervisor of the ice and arranged for a third-party snow-removal company to clear the ice. Of course, the ice was not cleared by the time the plaintiff fell.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the gas station, arguing that by virtue of opening for business during a storm, the gas station should have ensured a safe area in and around the gas pumps. The defendant gas station argued that under the continuing storm doctrine, it was entitled to wait until the storm had passed to clear the ice.

The court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court first dismissed the plaintiff’s argument that the continuing storm doctrine should no longer be applied. In doing so, the court cited numerous other cases – including a Virginia personal injury case – in which the continuing storm doctrine is still applied.

The court then discussed whether this case fit within the continuing storm doctrine. The plaintiff argued that since this case involved freezing rain, rather than snow, the application of the doctrine to these facts would unnecessarily extend the doctrine. However, the court disagreed, finding that the reasoning behind the doctrine applied with equal force to the freezing rain present in this case. The court seemed concerned that requiring businesses to constantly clear snow and ice during the pendency of a storm would be unduly burdensome.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law offices of The Schupak Law Firm have extensive experience handling Virginia personal injury cases, including cases involving spinal cord injuries and other serious injuries. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Virginia personal injury attorney to discuss your case, call 703-491-7070 or complete our online form.

See More Blog Posts:

Virginia Supreme Court Finds Plaintiffs Were Too Late in Amending Complaint, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, January 17, 2018.

Virginia Product Liability Claims, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, January 3, 2018.

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