Submitted: February 7, 2018
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware CA No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA, VAUGHN, SEITZ and TRAYNOR
T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.
2nd day of May 2018, upon consideration of the
parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears to
the Court that:
Appellant, Denise Buchanan, appeals from a Superior Court
Order granting summary judgment for Appellees on the basis of
the continuing storm doctrine. Buchanan claims on appeal that
the continuing storm doctrine is not a defense to her claim
because the negligence alleged by her occurred prior to the
storm. Specifically, she alleges that the Appellees failed to
take preventive or precautionary measures in advance of the
storm to make their premises safe for business invitees.
January 10, 2014, TD Bank operated a bank in Dover with an
ATM that was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to
weather records, rain began falling at 6:54 a.m. that day.
The temperature when that reading was taken was 32 degrees
Fahrenheit. The precipitation continued throughout the day
and included sleet, freezing rain, and rain. It caused ice to
form in some locations, including at the TD Bank.
Around 8:00 a.m. that day Buchanan arrived at TD Bank to use
the ATM. In her deposition, she testified that it was raining
when she left her house and on her way to TD Bank. She parked
her vehicle directly in front of the bank. As she stepped out
of her vehicle and onto the pavement she slipped on ice and
Erica Tiffany Mansfield, Assistant Manager of the TD Bank
branch, witnessed Buchanan's fall. Ms. Mansfield brought
Buchanan an umbrella to shield her from the rain as she laid
on the ground. An incident report prepared that day records
Buchanan's fall as occurring at 7:53 a.m. The report
indicated the weather conditions as
"raining/sleeting" with Buchanan's fall caused
by "black ice on [sic] sidewalk."
Bank contracted with Appellee Merit Service Solution, LLC, to
perform snow and ice removal. In turn, Merit sub-contracted
that work to Appellee JT Snow Removal, Inc., which was owned
by Jerry Taylor. Taylor testified the TD Bank premises were
pre-salted the evening of January 9, 2014, around 6:00 p.m.
He also testified that the premises were salted again on
January 10, 2014, between approximately 5:20 a.m. and 5:40
a.m., although a dispute of fact exists as to whether that
salting took place.
Buchanan filed suit against TD Bank, N.A., TD Bank U.S.
Holding Co., Merit Service Solution, LLC, JT Snow Removal,
Inc., and Jerry Taylor, alleging negligence for their failure
to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition by
failing to take reasonable steps to prevent ice and snow
accumulation prior to the winter storm. Appellees filed a
motion for summary judgment, arguing that under the
continuing storm doctrine they were permitted to wait until
the winter precipitation ended and a reasonable time
thereafter before removing ice from the premises. The
Superior Court granted the motion, finding that the
continuing storm doctrine applied. This appeal followed.
"This Court reviews de novo the Superior
Court's grant or denial of summary judgment 'to
determine whether, viewing the facts in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, the moving party has
demonstrated that there are no material issues of fact in
dispute and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.'"
Generally, a landowner owes a duty to business invitees to
keep his premises safe for their benefit. This duty
includes keeping the property reasonably safe from
accumulations of ice and snow that occur
naturally. An exception to this general duty is known
as the continuing storm doctrine. "[I]n the absence of
unusual circumstances, [a landowner] is permitted to await
the end of the storm and a reasonable time thereafter to
remove ice and snow from an outdoor entrance walk, platform,
or steps." The policy behind this exception is that
changing weather conditions due to a storm make it
"inexpedient and impracticable" for a landowner
"to take earlier effective action" to clear their
Recently, we reaffirmed our approval of the continuing storm
doctrine in Laine v. Speedway In Laine, the
plaintiff slipped on ice and fell near a gas pump on the
premises of a combination convenience store-gas station. He
had stopped at the store to fill up the gas tank in his
employer's van. The ice was caused by a light, freezing
rain, which was then falling and continued throughout the