It seems that when it rains, it pours — but what about when it ices? That is the question that was facing a Texas court after judges considered a premises liabilitycase related to a slippery walkway in Bell County. The Supreme Court of Texas has determined that those who fall on the ice in the state may not seek financial compensation from a property owner for their injuries.
Reports show that the ruling was tied to a case against a Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple. Two Texas residents had filed a suit against the facility after they fell on icy pavement in a parking lot, suffering physical injury. The couple had argued that hospital staff irresponsibly applied a chemical to the ice that actually made it more slippery and hazardous.
In response, the court ruled that ice should be treated like slippery mud; in the state of Texas, property owners are not required to mitigate most mud hazards, largely because these business owners are not able to control rainfall. Ice, therefore, is considered in the same category as “dirt in its natural state,” according to the ruling. Further, a judge explained that the fact that ice is rare in Texas played a role in deciding in the hospital’s favor.
In essence, the ice formation is considered “natural,” and property owners in Texas would face an undue burden if they were required to watch for such small patches of ice, considering the state’s general weather patterns. This ruling could have a significant impact on premises liability cases throughout the state, as ice has now been effectively removed from the list of hazards that can be addressed through premises liability suits in Texas.
Source: Southeast Texas Record, “Rarity of icy weather in Texas frees premises owners from liability, high court rules” Steve Korris, May. 11, 2014