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Break the ice

Joe Bloggs, a prospective customer, arrived at a local auto dealership to look at new vehicles on display.

The facts

Joe Bloggs, a prospective customer, arrived at a local auto dealership to look at new vehicles on display for sale on their lot. Joe approached a vehicle that had caught his eye and as he walked from the front of the vehicle to the rear end, he suddenly slipped and landed on his right arm and shoulder. As a result of the slip and fall incident, Joe fractured his arm and tore his rotator cuff, which required surgery with internal fixation.

The result

Snow had been falling frequently over the past two weeks which meant the auto dealership had been plowing and maintaining the lot daily, leaving piles of snow scattered throughout the premises. The slip and fall incident occurred due to a snow pile that did not melt until early evening the previous day causing the water to freeze overnight. This particular snow pile was in a position blocked from sunlight, which delayed the melting process and therefore meant that the water froze overnight instead of draining away earlier in the day. The auto dealership displayed no warning signs to indicate that there was a frozen patch of water. 

The auto dealership was found guilty of negligence in allowing water to thaw and refreeze. On a premises claim, general negligence is sufficient to obtain a judgement. As the caretaker of the premises, it was the auto dealership’s duty to ensure a safe area. The claim settled for over $200,000.

Risk factors

Risk factor #1

Auto dealerships should always be aware of locations on their lot that are blocked from sunlight, and work to eliminate any accumulation of snow in those locations. 

Risk factor #2

In snowy or icy conditions, auto dealerships should regularly inspect their lots during the day to determine where melting snow or ice water accumulates or flows, and whether it drains away. In spots where water is likely to accumulate and freeze, barriers should be placed around the area, and signs should be displayed to warn the public to look out for snow or ice accumulation. 


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