As the snow continues to pile up, let us take a moment to review some of the law relating to snow and ice removal in Connecticut. Are property owners responsible for premises liability lawsuits if someone is injured on their property?
Under Connecticut law, a landowner has an obligation to remove or otherwise treat dangerous accumulations of snow and ice from his or her property. It is well established that the landowner’s obligation to remove snow or ice does not begin until after a reasonable period has passed following the end of the storm. This means that a landowner may not be liable to an injured party who falls on snow or ice on their property during a storm. This is commonly referred to as the “ongoing storm” doctrine.
In some instances, it may be possible for a person injured during the course of a storm to bring a claim against a landowner if it can be shown that the injury was caused by an older accumulation of snow or ice not related to the ongoing storm.
The obligation to perform snow removal is known as a “nondelegable duty”. This means that the landowner cannot avoid responsibility an injury caused by snow and ice merely because they had assigned the responsibility of snow removal to another party. In an instance where a snow removal company has failed to perform its responsibilities, an injured person likely has a claim against both the landowner and the snow removal company.
Responsibility for snow and ice removal on public sidewalks is governed by local ordinances. For example, §99.56(C) of the Waterbury City Ordinances reads:
(C) The owner or person in possession and control of land abutting a public sidewalk shall have a duty of exercising reasonable care to keep the sidewalk free of dangerous conditions caused by the accumulation of ice or snow thereon and shall be liable to any person who sustains injury to self or property where a breach of the duty is the proximate cause of the injury.
Most Connecticut cities and towns similarly place responsibility for snow removal of public sidewalks on the owner of the abutting property. Your own town likely has a specific ordinance relating to snow removal on public sidewalks. These ordinances usually provide details regarding how long an abutting property owner has to remove dangerous snow and ice conditions. You are encouraged to review them on your city or town’s website.