Recently the state’s high court issued an opinion stemming from a New Hampshire slip and fall accident occurring in the plaintiff’s employer’s parking lot. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff slipped on ice in an employee parking lot as she exited her vehicle before beginning her shift as a nurse at the hospital. As a result of her slip and fall, she suffered severe injuries requiring surgery. Her employer, a hospital, was immune from liability, so the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the company that the hospital hired to clear snow and ice.
The plaintiff alleged that the snow company breached their duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition because they failed to clear and salt the parking lot. The plaintiff cited the contract between the snow removal company and the hospital. The contract provided that the company would clear the lots as frequently as possible, before each shift, and salt before and after a storm. The company moved for dismissal, arguing that they did not owe the woman a duty of care. The plaintiff appealed, contending, amongst other issues, that a duty exists under the doctrine of foreseeability and third-party liability.
Under New Hampshire law, plaintiffs intending to hold an at-fault party responsible for their injuries must meet the legal elements of a negligence claim. Generally, plaintiffs must establish that the at-fault party owed them a duty, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach resulted in foreseeable, proximate injuries and damages. In many cases, the foreseeability prong is easy to establish; however, challenges occur when the defendant argues that the victim’s injuries were not foreseeable or the party themselves were not a foreseeable plaintiff. New Hampshire law provides that parties owe a duty to those “foreseeably endangered by their conduct, whose likelihood and magnitude make the conduct unreasonably dangerous.” In this case, the court found that the snowplow services did not amount to unreasonably dangerous conduct, and the negligent activity did not outsize the harm sufficient to create a duty.