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Posts Tagged ‘snow’

We Judge Liability On What Is Finished, Not What Is Attempted

February 9th, 2011 1 comment

Accident while shoveling snowGenerally, property owners in the City of New York and villages on Long Island owe no duty to pedestrians to remove snow and ice that naturally accumulates on the public sidewalk in front of his or her premises. A failure to shovel may result in a fine from the local municipality, but no liability to a third-party plaintiff. So what happens if you, as a property owner, begin to clear the snow and ice from your property and do a poor job of it? New York Courts have found that once efforts have been made to clear the snow and ice from the public sidewalk, a property owner can be found liable in negligence where his or her acts create or increase the hazards inherent in those conditions.

Having undertaken to clear the snow and ice, a property owner is obligated to exercise reasonable care in doing so. Failing to do so can lead to a jury reasonably inferring that the dangerous conditions present are the result of an incomplete and incompetent snow removal effort. It can also be inferred that the property owner’s conduct created or increased a hazard that would not have existed but for the property owner’s actions.

When the inevitable storm hits our area again (and we know it will), make certain you have the necessary tools, shovels, snow-blowers, salt and sand, to start and most importantly finish the job. It is prudent to make sure you have used all reasonable care to clear the dangerous conditions from your property to avoid slips and falls which could result in a negligence action against you. Remember, your children are a cheap and effective way to remove snow and ice, after all, shouldn’t they work for their day off?

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What happens if the mailman slips on snow and ice on your property?

January 28th, 2011 Comments off

In New York, property owners owe a duty of care to remove dangerous snow and ice conditions on their property.   If snow or ice exists on a person’s property, they could be liable for a slip and fall if they were negligent in failing to remove the snow or ice.  Negligence can be defined as: acting, or failing to act, in a reasonable manner to prevent foreseeable risks of harm to persons. 

So what constitutes acting in a “reasonable manner” when it comes to the removal of snow and ice?  Firstly, it depends on how long the snow and ice condition existed.  Under the “storm in progress” doctrine, a property owner is not required to clear snow and ice until a reasonable time after the storm ceases.   Further, as with any dangerous condition on property, a landowner is only liable if they were on notice of the condition- either actual or constructive notice.  Constructive notice will be found where a condition had existed for such a long period of time that the property owner, in the exercise of due care, should have recognized it and remedied the condition.   In New York, there is no bright-line rule for how long an icy condition must exist in order to constitute constructive notice.  In New York City, the Administrative Code Section 16-123 gives property owners four hours after a storm ceases within which to clear any dangerous snow or icy condition and until 11:00 a.m. where the storm occurs overnight.

Secondly, the reasonableness of a property owner’s actions or inactions will be judged by the methods employed for the removal of the snow and ice.  Juries have repeatedly weighed factors such as whether the property owner threw down salt, ice melt and/or sand and whether they used shovels, ice picks or a snow thrower in determining whether an accident was the result of a property owner’s negligence or simply an unavoidble hazard caused by  nature.

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