HARRISBURG – The Superior Court affirmed a summary judgment on Oct. 27 in favor of Lehigh County Agricultural Society (LCAS) in an ice slip-and-fall injury case.
In its opinion, Superior Court Judges Jack A. Panella, Alice Beck Dubow and James J. Fitzgerald agreed with the trial court that Ada Bennicoff’s affidavit contradicted her deposition, in which she stated her husband Charles Bonnicoff parked on dry pavement and had no trouble walking to Ag Hall at LCAS-owned Agricultural Fairgrounds in Allentown.
The Superior Court held that Ada could have avoided the ice patch but instead chose to step on it, thus assuming the risk.
“The undisputed evidence showed that Charles exited the truck and walked toward the entrance to Ag Hall without incident,” the court wrote.
“As she stated in her deposition, she (Ada) clearly observed the ice, appreciated the risks of stepping on it, and nonetheless chose to walk on it when she could have taken an alternate path, either by following Charles or choosing to step around the obvious ice patch.”
According to the ruling, in March 2015, appellants Ada and Charles Bennicoff drove their truck to the LCAS-owned Agricultural Fairgrounds in Allentown.
The fairgrounds parking lot had patches of ice after it snowed two days earlier. Ada stepped out into the parking lot on dry pavement but slipped after taking a few steps onto ice, breaking a small bone in her ankle, the ruling states.
When Charles exited the truck, however, he walked toward a building without incident ahead of his wife, according to the court.
The Bennicoffs filed a complaint against LCAS in October 2015 alleging negligence and claiming LCAS left the icy parking lot untreated.
LCAS filed a motion for summary judgment in September 2016. LCAS argued that Ada assumed the risk because the danger of ice was both obvious and avoidable. In addition, LCAS contended that her husband’s “route” constituted an "alternative path" that Ada could have taken.
Ada submitted an affidavit stating that the truck was surrounded by ice and it was unavoidable to get into Ag Hall, the building where they were going. She added that there was no safe alternative route.
On Dec. 27, 2016, the trial court granted LCAS's motion for summary judgment. The trial court found that the danger of slipping on the ice was "obvious," and that Ada was aware and assumed the risk, the opinion states. The Bennicoffs appealed.