South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Store Has No Duty of Care to Protect Patrons from Ice in Parking Lot from Ice Storm
Description A store patron slipped and fell on the ice in a parking lot. The ice was the result of an ice storm. The appeals court held that while the injured shopper was an invitee of the store, the store did not violate its duty of care to protect the patron, as the ice was a natural result of a storm.
Topic Torts
Key Words Premises Liability; Negligence; Duty of Care; Invitees; Ice
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts An unusual ice storm hit north Texas in December. Surratt went out during the icy conditions and stopped at a Wal-Mart, where the parking lot was icy. Surratt slipped and fell on the ice between her car and the store. She sued Wal-Mart for negligence. The jury warded her $196,175 and found Wal-Mart 70% responsible due to negligence in maintaining the parking lot and found Surratt 30% responsible. Wal-Mart appealed.

Reversed. An owner/operator owes a duty to its invitees to exercise reasonable care to protect them from dangerous conditions on the premises known or discoverable to it. This duty does not make the landowner the insurer of the invitee’s safety. The owner does not have a duty to protect invitees from conditions caused by a natural accumulation of ice on its parking lot because this does not constitute an unreasonably dangerous condition. Wal-Mart did not violate a duty of care, so could not be found negligent.

Citation Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Surratt, ---S.W.3d--- (2003 WL 1857617, Ct. App., Tex., 2003)

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