Woman's admission that she saw the ice proves fatal to her slip-and-fall case

By Sara McCleary | Oct 26, 2017

HARRISBURG – The state Superior Court has affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a woman who slipped and fell in a parking lot.

The decision, filed Oct. 17, affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Kardango Inc., Dr. Luis C. Gonzalez and Parkway Medical Office. 

Appellant Donna Buccialia had filed the lawsuit Feb. 21, 2014, seeking damages for injuries she had sustained after slipping and falling in a parking lot belonging to the defendants in February 2012.

Buccialia had alleged that the defendants had been negligent in allowing snow and ice to accumulate in the parking lot despite owing her a duty of care. 

Judge Mary Jane Bowes   Courtesy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania

The trial court found that because by Buccialia’s own admission, she was aware of the ice and snow covering the parking lot before walking on it, she was aware of the risk and proceeded anyway, thus negating any duty of care owed to her. 

It granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint.

On appeal, Buccialia claimed the trial court erred in granting summary judgment, arguing that the court had based its decision on the conclusion that she had been a trespasser on the property. 

According to Judge Mary Jane Bowes’ written opinion, Buccialia’s “position on appeal is that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether she was a trespasser or a licensee when she slipped and fell” on the defendants’ property. As a licensee, she was owed a duty of care, she argued.

The appeals court, however, disagreed. 

“Appellant fails to recognize that whether she was a trespasser or a licensee is immaterial to her right to recover,” Bowes wrote. 

“Assuming, arguendo, that she had permission to walk on the parking lot and her status was that of licensee, Appellees still did not owe her a duty of care.”

As in the trial court’s decision, the appeals court found that whether Buccialia had been a trespasser or licensee, her admission that she saw the snow and ice but decided to walk through the parking lot anyway eliminated any duty of care the landowners may have owed to her.

“Since Appellant knew of the condition of the land and the risk of falling on ice, Appellees, as possessors of land, did not ower her a duty of care,” Bowes wrote.

Judges Kate Ford Elliott and Carl A. Solano concurred in the decision.

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