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12/08/97 JOYCE S. MORIN v. TRAVELER'S REST MOTEL

December 8, 1997

JOYCE S. MORIN, APPELLANT
v.
TRAVELER'S REST MOTEL, INC.



Appeal from the Order entered March 26, 1997. In the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Civil No. 590 of 1996. Before ALLISON, J.

Before: Cirillo, P.j.e., and Eakin and Olszewski, JJ. Opinion BY Cirillo, P.j.e. Olszewski, J. files a Concurring Opinion.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cirillo

OPINION BY CIRILLO, P.J.E.:

Filed December 8, 1997

Joyce S. Morin appeals from the order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County granting appellee's - Traveler's Rest Motel, Inc. (Traveler's) motion for summary judgment See Pa.R.A.P. 341; Pa. R.C.P. 227.1, note. We affirm.

In reviewing an order granting a motion for summary judgment, an appellate court must examine the entire record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all doubts against the moving party. Merriweather v. Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc., 453 Pa. Super. 464, 684 A.2d 137 (1996) (citation omitted). See generally Pa.R.C.P. 1035.2, 42 Pa.C.S.A.

In conformance with the above standard, the facts read in the light most favorable to the non-moving party are as follows: Morin, her husband, and four friends were visiting the Lancaster County area in February of 1994. On the afternoon of February 12th, they arrived at the Traveler's Rest Motel located in Intercourse, Lancaster County. During the early evening hours, freezing precipitation began and continued until early the following morning. The motel manager, Nathan Hershey, arrived at approximately 6:30 a.m. on February 13th. Upon noticing the icy and slippery condition of the parking lot Mr. Hershey spread salt and sand around part, but not all, of the motel parking lot. Mrs. Morin awoke and had breakfast with the group. After breakfast, at approximately 7:20 a.m., Mrs. Morin, while walking to the van in which she and her group were traveling, slipped and fell on a thin blanket of ice that covered the motel's entire parking lot. *fn1 The area of the parking lot in which Mrs. Morin fell was not salted or sanded. As a result of the fall, Mrs. Morin suffered a fractured shoulder and elbow.

Mrs. Morin subsequently filed suit against Traveler's alleging that it negligently failed to provide safe access to her vehicle. Traveler's filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Mrs. Morin had failed to demonstrate that there were any triable issues of material fact. Specifically, Traveler's asserted that the present case was governed by the "hills and ridges" doctrine and that Mrs. Morin had failed to proffer any evidence that Traveler's permitted "hills and ridges" to accumulate unreasonably. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment. This appeal followed. Mrs. Morin presents the following issues for our consideration:

(1) Does the common law of Pennsylvania require that the hills and ridges doctrine or the reasonable care doctrine apply to a business invitee's fall on ice in a motel parking lot?

(2) If the hills and ridges doctrine applies, should an exception be made based on the facts of this case?

(3) If the hills and ridges doctrine applies to a business invitee, did generally slippery conditions exist at the time of Plaintiff's fall making the doctrine applicable to the facts of this case?

Our standard of review in cases of summary judgment is well settled. This court will only reverse the trial court's entry of summary judgment where there was an abuse of discretion or an error of law. Merriweather, Pa. Super. at , 684 A.2d at 140. Summary judgment is proper when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits demonstrate that there exists no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pa.R.C.P. 1035.2, 42 Pa.C.S.A. In determining whether to grant summary judgment a trial court must resolve all doubts against the moving party and examine the record in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.

Mrs. Morin argues that the "hills and ridges" doctrine should not apply to a business invitee who falls on ice covering a business' parking lot, because business owners do not face the same problems of snow / ice removal that entire cities, municipalities, or towns may face. Mrs. Morin explains that the "hills and ridges" doctrine is sound policy with respect to cities and towns, as it would be impracticable if not impossible to remove every flake of snow that falls. Small business owners, however, Mrs. Morin asserts, do not deserve the same protection, since they are responsible only for removing snow and ice on their property, hardly an impracticable task.

The "hills and ridges" doctrine is a long standing and well entrenched legal principle that protects an owner or occupier of land from liability for generally slippery conditions resulting from ice and snow where the owner has not permitted the ice and snow to unreasonably accumulate in ridges or elevations. Harmotta v. Bender, 411 Pa. Super. 371, 601 A.2d 837 (1992). "The doctrine as defined and applied by the courts of Pennsylvania, is a refinement or clarification of the duty owed by a possessor of land and is applicable to a single type of dangerous condition, i.e., ice ...


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