Now that we’ve finally experienced some winter weather, it seems appropriate to talk about a case that was recently decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court in September, 2015, Carter v. Bullitt Host, LLC. This case marks a significant change in the law as far as liability for slip-and-fall injuries due to snow and ice on a landlord’s or business owner’s property.
Before the Carter case was decided, the rule of law, generally speaking, was that a landlord or business owner did not have any duty or liability with regard to natural outdoor hazards such as snow and ice that were open and obvious. Such cases often resulted in a motion for summary judgment and dismissal.
Carter, on the other hand, now says that a landlord or business owner may still have a duty of care to remove or eliminate the dangers presented by open and obvious, naturally occurring accumulations of snow and ice, depending on the circumstances of the case.
The upshot of the Carter decision is that trial courts are going to be much less likely to dismiss such cases, which means that a jury will ultimately get to decide the question of liability unless the case is settled.
Practically speaking, this means that slip-and-fall cases due to snow and ice should have stronger settlement value than they did pre-Carter, since liability insurers must either settle the case or face the expense and potential risk of defending the case at trial which they typically prefer to avoid.