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What are My Rights If a Property Owner Fails to Remove Snow or Ice and I Fall and Am Injured?

snowblower on the sidewalk in a neighborhood in the middle of a snowstormSome people love the winter and all the snow that comes along with it. To others, the burdens of snow removal and inclement weather make the season unbearable.

Love it or hate it, snow and ice must be cleared from driveways, sidewalks and parking lots. In fact, owners and those in possession of property have a duty to keep walkways and parking lots safe for pedestrian use. If the failure to do so results in a slip and fall accident that results in a serious injury, the landowner or person or entity responsible for maintaining the property may be held liable for injuries caused by slippery conditions caused by the presence of snow or ice.

In addition, if attempts to maintain the property aren’t done properly, a claim of negligence may also lie.

Understanding Snow Removal Laws in New York State

While under New York law there is no duty to completely remove every inch of snow or ice, the effort and the result must have been such that “reasonable care” was exercised.

Put another way, if, despite activity intended to remove snow, or treat ice, there is still what a jury would find to have been an unsafe condition for those walking on the surface, liability for injury will result. Further, if snow is removed from a parking lot or sidewalk in such a manner so as to create an unsafe condition, the landowner or those responsible for creating the condition will be liable for the injury and damages that results when someone falls.

This principle applies to both commercial owners who clear snow from sidewalks and parking lots, and to private landowners who clear snow from property in a manner that causes danger on their own or an abutting property.

New York Personal Injury Cases Related to Improper Snow Removal

One of our law firm’s experienced Albany slip and fall attorneys David Taffany litigated Urban v. City of Albany, a case involving the issues discussed above. In this case, the municipal landowner piled snow in such a manner that when it melted, ice was created from water running onto a lower surface and refreezing. Our client sustained serious injury and the jury found that the municipality was responsible. The defendant appealed and the jury’s decision was upheld.

There are many other examples of New York courts finding snow removal improper. In the Cardinale v. Watervliet Housing Authority, the court made it clear that landowners must not create a dangerous condition on the property, and if having actual notice of a dangerous condition, property owners must make the property safe.

In Figueroa v. Lazarus Burman Associates, the plaintiff was injured when he fell on ice in a parking lot. The defendant was supposed to clear ice and snow from the lot, and efforts were shown to have been made to do that. However, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to allow a suit based on the theory that the lot was negligently cleared. Moreover, the court ruled that the defendant might be found liable even if it wasn’t shown that it had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition; if it was found to have created it.

Additional Factors That Can Influence Liability for Slip & Fall Accidents After a Snowfall

Liability for an unsafe condition is not “absolute,” however. There are a number of factors that can influence whether or not a property or landowner can be held responsible for a slip and fall accident that left another individual injured.

The Scenario Was Not Reasonably Foreseeable

If a landowner could not “reasonably foresee” that a remote part of the property would be accessed by a pedestrian, he may not be liable if a person slips and falls in such an area on the property. The New York court decision in Mulholland v. Willis is a good example of that.

The plaintiff was injured in the early morning while walking on snow and/or ice in the rear of the defendant’s property. The court rejected the claim, holding that the accident was not “reasonably foreseeable.” The court reasoned that since the defendant did not create the dangerous condition and did nothing to lead the plaintiff to the danger, he could not have reasonably foreseen that the plaintiff would enter the property in the early morning hours. In the absence of being foreseeable, the defendant did not have a duty to clear away the snow and ice.

The Storm in Progress Doctrine

Another legal principle that sometimes results in the plaintiff’s claim being dismissed is the “storm in progress” doctrine. This holds that an owner is not responsible for an unsafe condition that comes into existence while a storm is in progress. And, the owner has a “reasonable period of time” to clear the snow and ice after the storm has ended. You can learn more about the storm in progress doctrine here.

Injured As the Result of Inadequate or Negligent Snow Removal?

If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident in Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga or anywhere in the Capital District, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages.

The personal injury attorneys at Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany have decades of experience representing clients and have achieved record setting verdicts and settlements in upstate New York. They will fight to obtain full compensation for you or a loved one.

Call (518) 785-4900 today for a free consultation, or contact us online to schedule a free case review. We will explain your rights and answer your questions.

Looking for Additional Information About Liability for Accidents Caused By Winter Weather Hazards?

Winter can be a dangerous time fraught with slip and fall accidents and car accidents, often caused by the presence of snow and ice. The following resources are a good place to start if you’re searching for more insight about personal injury scenarios caused by winter weather.

Homeowner Responsibilities During the Winter – Find out how you can protect yourself from lawsuits as a homeowner during the winter, and learn what your responsibilities are when it comes to snow removal.

Violations of Snow Removal Ordinances – Learn about the snow removal ordinances established in Upstate New York, and find out what your rights are if you’re injured as the result of an individual’s negligent violation of these ordinances.

Reduced Visibility Due to Snowbanks – Get the details about how snowbanks can create blind spots, and find out how personal injury cases involving high snowbanks are handled.

Editor’s note: This content was originally published in 2014 but has been updated as of January 2019.

David J. Taffany

About David J. Taffany

Mr. Taffany is an personal injury lawyer and a founding member of Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany, PLLC in Albany. He specializes in all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including complex medical malpractice, products liability and labor law. Read More About David J. Taffany »