MEDIA – After college student Brittany Gray sued Penn State University over allegations she slipped on ice at its Brandywine Campus, she received an arbitration ruling of less than she originally was seeking.

In December 2016, Gray was awarded $26,295 from an arbitration. Gray was seeking more than $50,000 in damages, disabilities and medical bills resulting from the accident, according to her January 2015 lawsuit, which was filed in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.

But Penn State fought back, saying that it was unreasonable to expect that the university would keep its premises completely clear of ice and snow during a snowstorm. 

Both sides of counsel declined to comment whether Gray was satisfied with the amount she received.

On March 25, 2013, Gray claimed she was injured on the Brandywine campus while walking to class. Her suit stated she slipped on a walkway while walking to class on a downward slope that was covered in snow and ice. Gray said in her deposition that her feet slipped from under her, and she fell backward on her right side. 

In her lawsuit, which was filed by attorney Phyllis D. Haskin, Gray claimed she “suffered a herniated disc at T10-11, cervical bulging discs C3-C-7, paresthesia in her upper extremities, radiculopathy in the right arm, cervical strain and sprain, thoracic strain and sprain, and multiple contusions and other injuries." 

Penn State filed a memorandum of law in support of its motion for summary judgment in August 2016 through its lawyers Michelle D. Coburn and Gregory Sasso of White and Williams LLP to dismiss Gray’s complaint. 

The defendant's lawyers stated that the state Supreme Court has held that landowners do not have a duty to do the impossible and always keep the walkways of their premises free of ice and snow. 

They referenced the Hills and Ridges Doctrine, which was created to define the duty of landowners and removing snow and ice, and states that a plaintiff must prove that an accident occurred because the owner allowed accumulation on a walkway in "hills and ridges."

The doctrine defines these hills and ridges as multiple inches of uneven snow or ice that accumulate in the sidewalk or walkway.

The defendant's lawyers pointed out that in the transcript of Gray’s deposition in May 2016, she admitted that the ice and snow she fell on was a flat, unbroken surface, and the snow did not reach her ankles. Multiple graphs from the National Climatic Data Center included in the documents for the motion showed that the weather for that day measured a total snowfall of only 1.1 inches, and only .26 inches in the early morning before Gray’s accident, the motion states. 

The motion states that it was “simply impossible for the for the walkway to have contained actionable hills and ridges” because of the small snowfall. The motion included for further evidence the transcript of the deposition of Maintenance Supervisor Anthony Montagna in May 2016, in which Montagna stated that the area where Gray allegedly fell would have been cleared and salted at least once, if not twice, before Gray’s alleged accident.

The case was sent to arbitration in September 2016. In December, Gray was awarded $26,295 from the arbitration.

In January, Gray’s attorney Phyllis D. Haskin sent an order to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas to settle and end the lawsuit. 

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Delaware County Court of Common Pleas
201 West Front Street
Media, PA - 19063

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