This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Elizabeth Juran, et al.,






City of White Bear Lake,



Filed December 19, 2006

Klaphake, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. C3-05-2148


Michael D. Tweksbury, Chad D. Dobbelaere, Tewksbury & Kerfeld, P.A., 88 South Tenth Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN  55403 (for appellants)


Jana M. O’Leary Sullivan, League of Minnesota Cities, 145 University Avenue West, St. Paul, MN  55103 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellants Elizabeth and Robert Juran brought this suit against respondent City of White Bear Lake for damages arising out of a slip-and-fall accident on a city sidewalk.  Because the district court did not err in determining that the city was entitled to summary judgment based on the “mere slipperiness” doctrine, we affirm solely on that basis.


            Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03.  On appeal, we must “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was granted.”  Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).

            The mere slipperiness doctrine provides that a municipality is not liable for injuries sustained due to the natural accumulation of snow and ice on city sidewalks unless the city allows the accumulation to remain on the sidewalk long enough to form “slippery and dangerous ridges, hummocks, depressions, and other irregularities.”  Doyle v. City of Roseville, 524 N.W.2d 461, 463 (Minn. 1994) (holding that city did not breach its common law duty to maintain its sidewalks so as to render it liable to pedestrian who slipped and fell on ice, and reinstating grant of summary judgment to city).  Thus, a municipality is not liable when an accumulation of snow melts, runs onto the sidewalk, and freezes.  Otis v. Anoka-Hennepin Sch. Dist. No. 11, 611 N.W.2d 390, 394 (Minn. App. 2000).  The doctrine encourages a municipality to clear its sidewalks without fear of liability.  See id. at 393 (discussing policy reasons behind doctrine).

            Here, it is undisputed that 12 to 14 inches of snow fell over the evening hours of March 14 and the early morning hours of March 15, 2002.  Pursuant to a written snow-and-ice removal policy, city employees plowed the snow with a small bulldozer, used a sidewalk sweeper to remove the snow from the pavement, and finally applied sand, salt, or calcium chloride to any icy patches that remained.  The employees completed their work on the downtown sidewalks at approximately 9:00 a.m. on March 15.

            Seven hours later, at approximately 4:00 p.m., appellant slipped and fell on a sidewalk that she described as wet, sloppy, and slushy.  Appellant claims that because employees left some snow on both sides of the sidewalk, as depicted in photographs from that date, the sidewalk was not adequately cleared.  She further claims that the application of salt pellets without adequately shoveling the snow immediately next to the building, caused the snow to melt and freeze as it traveled over the sidewalk.

            These facts are almost identical to those involved in Otis, which applied the mere slipperiness doctrine.  Nothing in the record suggests that the snow had remained on the sidewalk long enough to allow the formation of hummocks, ridges, or depressions.  We therefore conclude that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the city based on the mere slipperiness doctrine.  See Doyle, 524 N.W.2d at 464 (“Whether the ice had formed 2 hours or 5 minutes before the plaintiff’s unfortunate tumble is unknown, but it is readily apparent that it had not remained there long enough for the formation of ridges, hummocks, depressions or other irregularities on which municipal liability is founded.”).

            Appellant nevertheless insists that the mere slipperiness doctrine has merged into snow and ice immunity, as set out in Minn. Stat. § 466.03, subd. 4 (2004).  She notes that prior to 1986, Minn. Stat. § 466.03, subd. 4, exempted a municipality from liability for “[a]ny claim based on snow or ice conditions on any public highway or other public place, except when the condition is affirmatively caused by the negligent acts of a municipality.”  She insists that in 1986, an amendment to this subdivision resulted in a merger of the two doctrines and the creation of an exception to limit liability to “[a]ny claim based on snow or ice conditions on any highway or public sidewalk that does not abut a publicly-owned building or publicly-owned parking lot, except when the condition is affirmatively caused by the negligent acts of the municipality.”  1986 Minn. Laws ch. 455, § 65.  Thus, appellant reasons, a municipality now can be held liable for slippery conditions caused by the accumulation of snow and ice on a public sidewalk that abuts a public parking lot, which is the situation here.

            However, Minnesota courts have continued to apply the mere slipperiness doctrine even after the 1986 amendment.  See, e.g., Doyle, 524 N.W.2d at 463; Otis, 611 N.W.2d at 393-94.  These cases analyze snow and ice immunity and the mere slipperiness doctrine as separate and distinct doctrines.  See, e.g., Doyle, 524 N.W.2d at 464 (supreme court held that it need not reach issue of immunity because it had already determined that summary judgment was proper based upon mere slipperiness doctrine).  Indeed, in Doyle, the supreme court acknowledged that it has “continued to recognize and honor the ‘mere slipperiness’ rule subsequent to the adoption of the Municipal Tort Liability Act.”  Id. at 463.

            As the city notes, appellant fails to distinguish or even address Doyle.  The city further urges us to reject appellant’s attempted reliance on Bufkin v. City of Duluth, 291 N.W.2d 225, 226 (Minn. 1980), in which the court held that the city was not entitled to use the mere slipperiness doctrine as a defense because its ice arena was operated for profit.  Because the city here was not operating the sidewalk for profit, Bufkin fails to support the position urged by appellant.  See Doyle, 524 N.W.2d at 463-64 (distinguishing Bufkin on same basis).

            Given our determination that the city owed no duty to appellant under the mere slipperiness doctrine, we need not address the issue of whether the district court erred in also concluding that no duty was owed because the dangerous condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious and because there is no evidence to establish that the city had any notice of the danger.  We further decline to address the issue raised by the city via notice of review, which involves whether the city is entitled to discretionary immunity under Minn. Stat. § 466.03, subd. 6 (2004).  See Doyle, 524 N.W.2d at 464 (“In view of our conclusion that there has been no showing from which it could be inferred that the City of Roseville has not met its common law duty with respect to the maintenance of its highways and sidewalks, we do not decide whether the City is immune from liability pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 466.03.”).  We therefore affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment solely on the basis of the mere slipperiness doctrine.