THE BLOG
11/30/2014 10:52 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2015

Business Liability for Snow and Ice Removal

There are numerous slip and fall lawsuits resulting from snow and ice on business premises. This comment briefly discusses each of three legal standards that may apply, depending upon the jurisdiction.

The "Natural Accumulation Rule" states that snow and ice are not created by the business owner and are not defective property conditions. Hence, the business owner has no responsibility to remove it and is not liable for injuries caused by slips or falls on it. A very limited exception to this rule applies if there has been a long passage of time during which snow has been compacted to ice. However, applying salt, shoveling, or plowing in and of themselves do not impose liability on the business owner.

The "Storm-in-Progress Rule" mandates that a business owner need only begin snow or ice removal after a reasonable time has passed from the end of a storm. A jury determines when the storm ended and if the injured individual slipped on un-removed "old" snow from a prior storm or "new" snow from a current storm. A reasonable care standard applies to the action of removing snow and ice.

The "Reasonable Care Rule" simply states that at all times a business owner must exercise reasonable care in addressing snow and ice. A jury decides if reasonable care exists. Snow and ice under this standard are no different than any other spill that should be cleaned-up. Even if the snow and ice are clearly visible, the business owner must act if an injury may be anticipated.

Business owners should utilize experienced legal counsel to determine what legal standard applies in their state. There may be local and state regulations that mandate snow and ice removal as well as safety signage. A business should not have drainage systems that add to ice accumulation. Additionally an insurance professional may address the appropriate form of liability insurance for the business.