Pioneer Retail v. Jones – Disputed Liability in Slip & Fall Premises Cases

In premises liability cases, sometimes there is a dispute over who controls the premises where the plaintiff slipped and fell. Oftentimes this can occur when someone slips and falls in a parking lot, or on a sidewalk, because those areas might not belong to the business where someone has been injured. These areas can often be controlled by the actual landlord, or they can be controlled by a third party who is contracted out to either fix the lot or sidewalk when there is damage, or plow or shovel in the winter.

The Case: Pioneer Retail, LLC, d/b/a Wiseway Food v. Jones

This case involves a dispute of premises liability and whether or not the property owner or the third-party contractor was liable for slip-and-fall injuries suffered when Jane Jones fell outside a Wiseway store in Northwestern Indiana. It was undisputed at trial that the day that Jones went to Wiseway that it had snowed and there was an accumulation of snow and ice in the parking lot. Jones slipped and fell on the sidewalk immediately outside the store.

The property was owned by Gateway Arthur, Inc., and the management company was Emmes Realty. Emmes Realty contacted with DLC Landscape and Snow Removal to clear snow, ice, and other debris from the property. Gateway leased the property to Pioneer Retail, who operated the Wiseway store.

Jones filed suit, and Pioneer filed a motion for summary judgement, claiming that they were not liable. Pioneer stated that it was the job of Gateway, who had contracted with DLC Landscape and Snow Removal, who owed Jones a specific duty of care to keep the parking lot free from ice, snow, and other hazards which could potentially injure someone. Pioneer also argued that the sidewalk was a common area that was under the control and ownership of Gateway, not Pioneer. The trial court denied Pioneer’s summary judgement motion. On appeal Pioneer argued to the court that there was no issue of material fact in who owed Jones a duty of care.

The Court of Appeals did not agree with Pioneer. They stated that Pioneer, as a business, has a duty of care to the people who it invites on its premises. Pioneer owed Jones some sort of duty of care and should have done a better job of providing that care. The Court also stated that just because Gateway was the landlord of the property and had contracted DLC to remove snow, ice, and other debris, did not absolve Pioneer of liability regarding any duties to invitees. The Court of Appeals stated that the trial court did not err in denying Pioneer’s summary judgement.

Why Does This Matter?

This case is important because it shows that even if a store or business has contracted with another company to clear their sidewalk or parking lot of snow, ice, or debris, that business still owes their invitees a duty of care. If you were to slip and fall on a sidewalk or parking lot near a store or other business, and that business contracts the removal of snow or ice to another company, the business might still be held liable for your injuries.

Have You Been Injured Recently in a Slip-and-Fall?

If you have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, contact the experienced attorneys at Hurst-Limontes, LLC. We work hard for our clients, and we have decades of combined experience fighting for our clients in even the most complicated of slip-and-fall accidents. Call or email us today for a free consultation!