In Williams v. City of Jamestown, No. M2015-00322-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 23, 2016), the trial court dismissed a GTLA premises liability claim after a bench trial, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Plaintiff was visiting the county courthouse and adjacent jail when he slipped and fell on ice in the parking area. Snow had begun falling the night before and accumulated approximately six inches by the time plaintiff went out the next day. The city had scraped and salted the roads and parking areas the night the snow began, and had been working since 5:30 a.m. on the day the fall occurred. When plaintiff drove into the courthouse parking lot, he noticed that the areas where the sun was hitting the ground were relatively free of snow, but he testified that he could only find a parking space in the shadowed area. Plaintiff entered and left the courthouse without incident, then walked over to the adjacent jail. On his way to the jail he walked “between a rock wall that bounded the courthouse grounds and the curb stops in the parking area,” which plaintiff stated was covered in snow and slush, but when leaving he “decided to walk out in the parking area” rather than following the same path. While in the parking area, plaintiff “turned his gaze from his feet to” a woman he met, and at that point slipped and fell on the ice.
During the bench trial, plaintiff admitted that there were six inches of snow on the ground that day and that “by venturing out, he was taking a serious risk.” He also testified that he did not have to go out that day. Further, evidence showed that the parking area had been scraped early that morning; the parking area had been further worked on at 10:00 am (approximately 3 hours before the fall); and that due to the 24 degree temperature, “it would have been difficult to keep salt treated areas from refreezing.”
The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s claim, finding that the city did not breach its duty of care to plaintiff, and that even if there were a breach, plaintiff was more than fifty percent at fault. In affirming dismissal, the Court of Appeals analyzed only the issue of whether the city breached its duty of care.