Once the slip-and-fall claim becomes a lawsuit, the snow contractor is either named in the suit or is enjoined by the property manager or owner as a third party to the suit. Questions (or interrogatories) are provided in written form to the parties involved for answering. After interrogatories are exchanged, the parties ask for specific documents. This process is known as “discovery,” which can last several months as the parties look to gain as much knowledge as possible about events, documentation, contract language and other items for their case. After discovery is completed, depositions are taken. Individuals who may have knowledge or information about the incident, or what the contractors/managers/owners might know or have done as part of their work or responsibilities towards the parties involved are questioned under oath.
Depositions are lawful testimony and most everything said in a deposition can be brought before a jury if the case goes to trial. Lawyers can ask many things in a deposition that might not be appropriate in court, but the deponent is still expected to truthfully answer all questions asked. Settlement discussions usually follow depositions, but occasionally can occur after discovery is completed. Both sides will argue their respective points in an effort to achieve a settlement without the cost of going to trial.
This begs the question, “what can I do as a responsible, professional snow contractor to protect myself from slip-and-fall claims of this nature?” Unfortunately, in today’s world anyone can sue anyone for just about anything. All we can do is limit our exposure if we are named in a lawsuit related to our work on any given site.