Goldberg, Miller & Rubin Partner, Eamon Merrigan, successfully defended a Montgomery County based company and the company’s landlord at a recent premises liability trial. Plaintiff, an independent cleaning contractor, claimed that she arrived to clean the Defendants’ offices during the early morning hours, as was her custom. Upon exiting her vehicle in the Defendants’ parking lot, Plaintiff claimed to have slipped and fallen on “black ice” causing her to suffer a “massive” rotator cuff tear requiring surgery. She further claimed that she was forced to close her cleaning business as a result of the injury. Throughout discovery, Plaintiff maintained that a wintery mix had ended several hours prior to the incident, and that all roads and walkways in the area appeared to have been cleared or treated prior to her accident. Prior to trial, Plaintiff issued a quarter million dollar settlement demand.
During cross-examination at trial, Plaintiff admitted that precipitation was still falling at the time of her fall and that temperatures were still below freezing. She also conceded that the “black ice” she slipped on was completely smooth, and appeared to uniformly cover the entire parking lot. After three days of evidence, Plaintiff rested her case in chief. At the close of Plaintiff’s case, Mr. Merrigan moved for compulsory non-suit arguing that Plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof on essential elements of her claim. More specifically, Mr. Merrigan argued that the applicable “Hill and Ridges Doctrine” required Plaintiff to produce evidence that Defendants had a reasonable period of time to clear the ice from their lot after the ice had formed and that the ice contained “hills, ridges or elevations” that unreasonably obstructed her travel. Mr. Merrigan further argued that Plaintiff’s own testimony precluded the possibility that any reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff met her burden. The Court agreed, granted Mr. Merrigan’s motion, and dismissed Plaintiff’s claim.