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Summary Judgment Victory on Snow and Ice Case in Federal Court

May 1, 2011

Lisa Slotkin and Debra Goldstein of the firm’s Jersey City office just won a summary judgment motion in a case pending in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey.  The case involved a snow removal contract with a hotel near the Newark Airport.  The contract required Zarwin, Baum’s client, a snow removal contractor, to perform snow removal and de-icing services at the hotel and it required the contractor to be “on call” twenty-four hours a day.  The evidence revealed that the contractor plowed and salted the parking lot following a snow fall the day before the accident.  The contractor also returned to the scene the day of the accident, even though there was no precipitation that day, and once again spent several hours applying salt to the outdoor parking lot.

The Plaintiff claimed to have slipped and fallen on black ice in the parking lot on the way back to his car a couple of hours after he had checked in.  Despite observations of black ice after the fall, the court found that neither the hotel, nor the contractor had constructive or actual notice of the alleged condition.  The court granted summary judgment to the hotel and the contractor.  The basis of the contractor’s summary judgment was that, as Zarwin, Baum argued, the contractor did not owe the Plaintiff a duty of care under the circumstances.  Plaintiff tried to argue that the contractor created and/or contributed to the dangerous condition, but provided no evidence (factual or expert in nature) to support this argument. 

It is noteworthy to mention the Magistrate Judge with whom the parties met for a settlement conference before the summary judgment motions were filed, advised against filing such motions, stating that the judge was not likely to grant summary judgment in a slip and fall case.  However, Lisa Slotkin, lead counsel on the case for the snow contractor, decided it a worthwhile motion to make, and with the assistance of Debra Goldstein, made the motion despite the Magistrate’s advice to the contrary.  Plaintiff opposed the motion, but the court saw fit to grant summary judgment even in light of Plaintiff’s opposition.

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