Premises Liability

A Snowstorm Might Subject Someone to Legal Liability

The time during and after snowstorms and freezing rain are very dangerous.  These sorts of storms can cause hazardous conditions.  Properly removing snow from roadways, walkways, and parking lots can limit legal liability. 

Individuals, businesses, and government agencies could be liable for injuries that occur on property they control.  An injured party must prove that the person, business, or government agency (1) controlled the property, (2) had actual or constructive knowledge about the hazard, (3) did not remove the hazard in a sufficient amount of time, and (4) the injury occurred because of the hazard.  Controlled property can include sidewalks, parking lots, roadways, and the areas inside a building.  In the case of snowstorms, snow and ice are hazardous condition.  For example, home owners and renters that do not shovel might be liable to someone that slipped as a result of the slippery conditions.  Also, a business that did not properly shovel the snow from their parking lot or address icy conditions that resulted from re-frozen snow melt might be liable for resulting injuries.

Compared to individuals and government agencies, businesses are likely to be held to a higher standard of care.  Businesses face a higher standard because they invite the public onto their premises for the benefit of the business i.e. to sell goods.  Assuming other factors are met, municipalities are liable for injuries if the condition at the place of the accident was more dangerous than the general conditions throughout the municipality.  In multifamily dwellings, like apartment buildings, the landlord is often responsible for maintaining the sidewalks and would be liable for any resulting injuries, if the other factors are met.

In addition to potential liabilities due to snow and ice, many municipalities will impose a fine on citizens and businesses that do not clear the sidewalks in front of their homes and offices from snow.  The fine varies depending by city and county.  Moreover, some areas restrict where you can put that snow.  For example, in Baltimore County, you cannot place your shoveled snow in the street or in front of a storm drain.   

If you were injured in a storm or are being sued due to alleged negligence, contact The Law Office of Phillip E. Chalker at (443) 961-7345 or