Lois St. Aubin v. Casey’s Retail Company

(Unpublished, No. A15-1306)

Minnesota Court of Appeals, Feb. 29, 2016


In this unpublished opinion, the appellate court held that Casey’s Retail Company owed no duty to Ms. Lois St. Aubin to remove ice during ongoing winter precipitation and, therefore, affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Ms. St. Aubin’s case.

Ms. St. Aubin, a 78-year-old woman, left her home on March 6, 2010 to buy a box of doughnuts at Casey’s General Store.  0.02 inches of precipitation had fallen that morning by 7:00 a.m., and an additional 0.18 inches fell by 7:00 a.m. the following morning.  Ms. St. Aubin did state that she noticed that conditions were wet and slippery.  She parked her car in the parking lot of Casey’s store, walked to the store, purchased doughnuts, and walked back to her car.  Ms. St. Aubin fell while trying to open her car door.  An employee of Casey’s store had salted the parking lot earlier that morning.

Ms. St. Aubin was injured as a result of her fall and sued Casey’s store for her damages.  The district court granted Casey’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Casey’s had no duty to remove the ice during ongoing precipitation and that the ice was an open and obvious danger.  Ms. St. Aubin appealed the district court’s ruling.

The appellate court essentially agreed with the district court.  The court cites Mattson v. St. Luke’s Hosp. of St. Paul, in which the Minnesota Supreme Court held that “a business establishment or other inviter may, without violating its duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of business guests or invitees, await the end of a freezing rain or sleetstorm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing ice and snow . . . .”  252 Minn. 230, 233, 89 N.W.2d 743, 745 (1958).

The court notes that it was undisputed in this case that the precipitation event was ongoing at the time Ms. St. Aubin fell.  As such, the court held that Casey’s owed no duty to remove the ice/snow at the time that Ms. St. Aubin fell.  The fact that an employee from Casey’s had applied salt to the area did not change the premises owner’s duty, or, in this case, lack thereof.

The takeaway from this case is that a landowner does not have a duty to remove ice/snow until a reasonable time after a precipitation event has ended.


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