Slippery Slope of “Ice and Snow cases”

Now that the winter seasons is upon us, a discussion about the merits of slips and falls on ice or snow is warranted.

The general rule of law regarding a landowner’s responsibility to clean snow and/or ice is that snow must be cleared within a reasonable time following the end of precipitation. The Administrative Code of the City of New York requires owners of 3 or more family dwellings, commercial premises, schools, et. al., to clean snow within 4 hours from the last precipitation.  (Owners of one or two family dwellings are exempt from the law).

The legislature (and Courts) never expect a landowner to remove each flake of snow as it hits the ground.  The law tries to balance the duty of landowners to maintain their property in a reasonable safe manner versus the safety of members of the public.

My advice is to clean snow from your sidewalk as soon as possible to avoid a fine (from the Department of Sanitation) and a to protect yourself from lawsuits.  If you own a property and are out of town when a storm strikes, be sure to have a person who can clean it for you,

Be sure that the snow is cleaned properly, otherwise you may be subject to being sued on the grounds that you “negligently cleaned” the sidewalk. (For example, if it snows and your wait one day to clean and ice forms, an expert witness might be able to establish that your failure to clean in a timely manner resulted in a dangerous condition).

If you have fallen on ice or snow and are injured, as difficult as it may be, try to take photos of the area where you fell.  In one of my cases, a client took a photo at 6:30 pm and  the owner testified that he had “cleaned the entire sidewalk at 6 pm,” With a time / date stamped photo I was able to show that the sidewalk was, in fact, NOT cleaned and was still icy and slippery only 30 minutes after he claimed that he cleaned it.  That can mean the difference between winning and losing your case.

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