Property owners are legally obligated to maintain their premises hazard free and safe. Property would include the interiors, driveways, walkways, and parking lots. The property owner’s duty of care extends to invitees and licensees. Invitees are all people who provide the owner with some material benefit, which could include shoppers, hotel guests, mail carriers, and so on. Licensees are people who are socially visiting the premises, such as neighbors, friends, and guests and so on.
Mother Nature’s Product; Man’s Neglect
One of the most common reasons for dangerous conditions to exist on a property is accumulated snow and ice in the winter months. However, it can be very difficult to determine how much snow or ice would make the situation dangerous. When instances of slip and fall on snow or ice go to trial, the court will be considering the circumstances of each individual case. Hence, there are no set rules for determining how much snow would amount to negligence of the property owner. The same is applicable to how much time a property owner has, to remove the snow or ice before incurring liability.
An Interesting Question
In slip and fall cases on snow or ice, there are many variables, unlike obvious dangers like defective stairway, building code violations, or large potholes. For instance, consider a situation where it has snowed during the night and snow has accumulated on the sidewalk by the morning. If a pedestrian slips and falls on the accumulated snow early in the morning, then is the property owner liable?
Time is Imminent
If the sidewalk belongs to a homeowner, then removing the snow is not as pressing as it would be if the sidewalk belonged to a storeowner or restaurant owner. A storeowner needs to make the property safe before the start of business, and if the snow is not cleared by the time the store is opened then the storeowner is liable.