The Duties of Landowners to Remove Snow and Ice
It’s officially winter in New Jersey, and that means ice and snow. Unfortunately, ice and snow can also mean slips and falls, particularly when a property owner fails to clear sidewalks or other thoroughfares. Sometimes, though, snow or ice can come unexpectedly and leave the landowner little time to clear it. Does a property owner have an absolute duty to ensure that anyone legally on the property isn’t hurt in a fall on snow or ice? If not, what are the responsibilities of those who control residential or commercial property?
With respect to the first question above, the answer is “no.” The owner or person in control of residential or commercial property does not have an obligation to prevent every possible injury due to snow or ice. Instead, the duty requires only that the owner/controller act as a reasonable person would. Typically, that question is a factual issue for the jury. The jury may look at a number of factors when determining reasonableness:
- Is there a history of accumulation of ice or snow where the accident occurred? Was it reasonable to expect that there would be a hazard?
- How much time elapsed between the accumulation and the injury?
- How much would it have cost to remedy the situation?
It’s also important to understand that the owner/occupier may opt to prevent access to the property, or to provide reasonable warning, instead of removing snow or ice.
Residential vs. Commercial Property
New Jersey applies a different standard to residential property than it does to commercial property. The owner/controller of residential property generally has no duty to remove accumulations of snow or ice, and it is therefore unusual for a person who slips and falls on ice or snow on residential property to recover damages. A residential owner generally is liable only if his or her actions made the hazardous situation worse.
With commercial property, there’s no requirement that the owner have actual knowledge of the accumulation, provided it is reasonably foreseeable that there could be such an accumulation.
To arrange a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at 973-993-8787. We have office locations in Morristown and Newton but will come to your home or the hospital when necessary.
We take all personal injury claims on a contingency basis. You will not incur legal fees unless attorney Popper recovers compensation for your losses.