Homeowner Did Not Create Dangerous Condition (Wet Leaves on a Slope)/Condition Was Open and Obvious (No Duty to Warn)
The Third Department affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the defendants homeowners in a slip and fall case. Plaintiff, who was following the homeowner as they walked around the house counting windows, slipped on a slope adjacent to the house which was covered with wet leaves. The court determined defendants did not create the hazardous condition and had no duty to warn of the condition:
“Generally, landowners both owe a duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining their property in a reasonably safe condition and have a duty to warn of a latent, dangerous condition of which the landowner is or should be aware” … . However, the landowner’s duty to warn “does not extend to open and obvious conditions that are natural geographic phenomena which can readily be observed by those employing the reasonable use of their senses” … . As the movants, defendants were required to “make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law” … .
Defendants satisfied their threshold burden, as the moving parties, by establishing … that they exercised reasonable care by maintaining the premises year round and in a seasonally appropriate manner, and that they did not create the condition, which occurred as a result of natural seasonal changes. Notably, plaintiff’s fall did not occur on a pathway, walkway or driveway but, rather, on the surface of the ground along the side of the house on the unaltered natural contour of the land in an area that was exposed to the elements; it was not foreseeable that someone would traverse on this obviously slippery terrain so as to impose an obligation on the owners to take precautions such as clearing the ground area of leaves and debris … .
Moreover, defendants’ proof established that the slippery condition of the leaf and debris-covered natural, unimproved downward slope was an open and obvious hazard, as opposed to a latent or concealed one, in that the danger “could not be overlooked by any observer reasonably using his or her ordinary senses”…. . Freeese v Bedford, 516863, 3rd Dept 12-26-13