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Beware of Falling Ice - Palacino v. Beech Mountain Resort

Guests of Beech Mountain Resort were warned about the usual dangers of snow sports, such as slip and falls. Beech Mountain posted signs, warning guests to "Be Aware and Watch Your Step." But in Palacino v. Beech Mountain Resort, plaintiffs are suing because a chunk of ice that had accumulated on top of the resort's View Haus Tower allegedly dislodged and struck Rachel Palacino in the head. Mrs. Palacino alleged that she fell to the ground and sustained a traumatic brain injury.

Landowners may not unnecessarily expose visitors to danger and must provide visitors with a warning of any hidden hazards if the landowner has express or implied knowledge. If a danger is open and obvious, there is no duty to warn.

Because Beech Mountain had a practice of removing icicles around the View Haus Tower roof, the North Carolina Western District Court found that there is "ample evidence in the record to allow a jury to determine whether Defendant knew or should have known of the potential danger from falling ice from the View Haus Tower, thereby giving rise to a duty of care to Plaintiff R. Palacino." Whether the resort breached a duty of care will be a question for the jury.

This should be an interesting premises liability case to watch because of the nature of business and inherent risks. Plaintiffs have asked for over $150,000 in damages - well under the resort's $10 million umbrella policy. Plaintiffs' punitive damages claim was dismissed on summary judgment, so damages will be limited to compensatory damages.

Palacino v. Beech Mt. Resort, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166250 (W.D.N.C. Dec. 11, 2015)

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