Pennsylvania’s Strange Law on Falls on Ice and Snow: The Hills and Ridges Rule

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Winters in Pennsylvania bring snow and ice, leading to treacherous conditions on sidewalks and in parking lots. Ice and snow cause countless falls and, along with them, many serious injuries. The Pennsylvania courts have established a strange rule called the “Hills and Ridges Rule” to define when a legal claim exists for a fall on ice or snow.

What Is The “Hills And Ridges Rule”?

The Hills and Ridges Rule provides that the owner of land is not liable for falls resulting from generally slippery conditions, because to require that a property owner’s walks always be free of ice and snow would impose an impossible burden in view of the climate in Pennsylvania. Instead, the property owner only has to act within a reasonable time after snow or ice appears to remove the dangerous condition.

To have a lawsuit related to a fall when there were generally slippery conditions in the area, the following must be established: (1) that the snow and ice had accumulated on the area of the fall in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct travel and constitute a danger to pedestrians; (2) that the property owner knew about the condition or it existed for such a long period of time that he or she should have known about it; and (3) it was the dangerous accumulation that caused the fall. Under the Rule, no claim exists for falls on generally icy conditions like freshly fallen snow or black ice, since landowners would face an impossible burden of anticipating and then immediately dealing with every snowfall or ice event.

The Rule presumes that, if the snow and ice have resulted in Hills and Ridges, the property owner must have failed to deal with the storm in a reasonable period of time and, as such, should be liable for the injuries.

Exceptions To The “Hills And Ridges Rule.”

The Hills and Ridges Rule does not govern every injury that results from a fall on snow or ice. The Rule only applies to cases involving snow and ice resulting from natural accumulation, like a recent snowfall or ice storm. Dangerous, slippery conditions from artificial origin are not covered by the Rule. For example, a fall caused by a crack in a sidewalk where ice was allowed to accumulate is not subject to the Hills and Ridges Rule. Similarly, falls due to icy conditions caused by a property owner’s neglect, like a leaky water spigot, a defective water pipe, or clogged storm drain, are not covered by the Rule. The Rule is meant only to give landowners extra time to deal with generally slippery conditions caused by snow or ice storms.

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