A client was injured while walking from his car to his doctor’s office because the parking lot was dangerous.
He went to his doctor’s office for a scheduled medical examination. The driveway to the medical office and the parking lot were extremely slippery and had not been salted or sanded when he slipped and fell. The premises were being plowed and presumably salted and sanded at the same time that he suffered his injuries. Using sand and/or salt would have reduced the risk of exposing him to an unnecessary and unreasonable danger. Clearly, the driveway and walking areas were far too slippery and should have been addressed much earlier in the day. My client’s injuries occurred at approximately 10:30 A.M.
In Vermont, surfaces which are otherwise safe become potentially dangerous when covered with ice or compacted snow. When these materials are on a walking surface like a parking lot, driveway or a sidewalk, available traction provided to a business invitee such as my client is substantially reduced and slipping can occur. Obviously, this condition is well-recognized by property owners, pedestrians and others. The recognition of this phenomenon has prompted the public policy in which the property owner, including a doctor’s office, is charged with the duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. Perhaps a medical facility has a higher duty because the main purpose is to maintain the health of its patients.
A slippery parking lot is a hazard that is readily identifiable if reasonable inspections have been performed by the doctor’s office staff. Regular inspections of the parking lot on a day when there was inclement weather would have disclosed the existence of a very dangerous situation. The parking lot was not properly maintained and was unsafe.