Is Your Icy Sidewalk a Lawsuit Waiting to Happen?
So I actually published this blog post for the first time almost exactly a week ago.* People clearly need the message again now: You must shovel your sidewalk. You're law-bound. But more importantly you're bound by a hovering societal anxiety that, at any point, someone could slip on your snow-covered sidewalk and sue you.
Last week, the Washington Post's Benny Kass addressed the question: Can I be held accountable if someone falls in front of my house?
The response—as often is the case with questions of law—is maybe.
*Or well, most of it. Significant chunks.
First off, D.C. homeowners are expected to shovel sidewalks in front of their houses. "The District requires homeowners to 'remove and clear away' the snow and sleet from their front sidewalks 'within the first eight hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet,'" according to Kass.
And what if you don't, and someone ends up with a broken hip a few feet from your front door? "Negligence is another matter," Kass writes. Here's more:
"If a homeowner has made the sidewalk more hazardous by creating ice bumps or has let the snow and ice sit for days after a storm ends, that homeowner may be liable for injuries sustained by a pedestrian.
In the District, the law is evolving. Although the D.C. Court of Appeals has never specifically ruled that a homeowner will be held liable for making the sidewalk more hazardous, a recent Superior Court case has opened the door for such a ruling. Judge Neal Kravitz, in a case decided Aug. 7, held that because the plaintiff alleged negligence on the part of the homeowner, the case would not be dismissed and would go forward for a jury trial.
Bottom line, the plaintiff will have to "prove that the property owner knew (or should have known) that the storm created a dangerous condition and that the owner was negligent."
Image by Grantsview, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License