In Baker v. St. Christopher’s Inn, the plaintiff claimed that he was injured when the roof of a maintenance shed collapsed while plaintiff was inside to retrieve a snow shovel. A significant amount of snow had accumulated on the roof during the course of a snow storm. Interestingly, there were “back to back” heavy snow storms which had blanketed the area with a significant amount of snow. After the first snow storm passed, there was a lull before the second storm affected the region.
Plaintiff claimed that the storm-in-progress defense did not apply here, and that the collapse of the shed was not related to the snowfall which had previously fallen. Plaintiff also claimed that after the first storm ended, the defendant should have removed the snow from the roof so as to prevent any potential collapses when the second storm passed through.
The lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s Complaint, finding that the storm-in-progress defense was applicable. That ruling was sustained by the Appellate Division who likewise concluded “a lull in the storm does not impose a duty to remove the accumulation of snow or ice before the storm ceases in its entirety.” Likewise, the Court held that the plaintiff’s attorney failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the precipitation from the storm in progress was not the cause of the accident, but instead our client had submitted admissible evidence, including the affidavit of a meteorologist and that of a licensed engineer, which demonstrated that the storm-in-progress defense was applicable.
Importantly, this ruling marks a major expansion of the storm-in-progress doctrine away from not only slip and fall accidents, but to structural collapses as well. Prior to this ruling, the Appellate Divisions had never dismissed a plaintiff’s Complaint based upon the storm-in-progress doctrine because of a structural collapse.
Baker v. St. Christopher’s Inn, (Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department).
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