Slip and Fall Injuries on Ice or Snow Covered Sidewalk or Street: Do I Have a Case?

As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, Edith Pearce often receives questions about an injury suffered by someone who slipped and fell on a sidewalk or street that was covered with ice and snow. When must a person remove snow or ice from their own sidewalk or property to prevent an accident?

Under Pennsylvania law, the courts have adopted the “hills and ridges” doctrine. This legal doctrine provides that an owner or occupier of land is not liable for general slippery conditions from the natural accumulation of snow or ice following a recent snowfall as long as the owner of the property has not permitted the ice and snow to unreasonable accumulate in ridges or elevations. However, a recent slip and fall case near Philadelphia illustrates that this doctrine only applies where the snow and ice are the result of an entirely natural accumulation and not after negligent or deficient snow plowing and icing.

In Harvey v. Rouse Chamberlin, Ltd., 901 A.2d 523 (Pa. Super. 2006), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania discussed at length the hills and ridges doctrine. In that case, a Philadelphia lawyer brought a lawsuit on behalf of Nancy Harvey when she slip and fell while walking on a street in the Windtree Development in Plumsteadville Township, Bucks County. On a winter day in January, it began to snow in the development and the snow continued through the early morning hours. After it had stopped snowing, and the roads had been plowed, Nancy Harvey decided to take a walk in the development. During her walk, Nancy walked on the sidewalk, but, at times, had to walk on the street as portions of the sidewalk had not been cleared. Nancy observed that some portions of the road were covered with packed down snow from being plowed and that there were patches of cleared asphalt. As Nancy approached the sidewalk in front of a particular home in the development, she observed that there was snow on the sidewalk. Consequently, Nancy decided to walk in the road, which appeared to be clear and dry. While walking in the road, Nancy slipped and fell on black ice and sustained injuries.

The Bucks County Trial Court dismissed the case on the basis of the hills and ridges doctrine. However, the Superior Court overruled this decision on appeal. The Superior Court found that because the roads had been plowed, the ice in this case could not have been the result of an entirely natural accumulation. Thus, the jury should have been allowed to determine whether sufficient salting was performed after the snow plowing to melt the remaining residue left after plowing and whether sufficient salt was placed on the road to prohibit the formation of ice.

This case is a good reminder that an experienced slip and fall accident lawyer is crucial to evaluate your case and bring your lawsuit. There are many questions in a slip and fall accident that can be answered by an experienced slip and fall attorney. Although many injury victims do not believe they have a claim for a slip and fall accident upon snow or ice, it is important to have your case reviewed by an experienced accident lawyer, such as Edith Pearce. Visit us at to see how we can help you with your issue