The Duties of Property Owners with Respect to Snow and Ice
Winter’s just about here, and in Pennsylvania, that means lots of snow and the potential for icy conditions. According to the National Weather Service, many parts of Pennsylvania can get up to two feet of snow every year. When conditions create snow, ice often follows. Snowy and icy sidewalks and steps often contribute to slip-and-fall injuries. What are the duties of property owners in the Quaker state regarding the accumulation of snow and ice?
The Duties of Owners and Property Managers
In Pennsylvania, anyone seeking to recover damages for a slip-and-fall on an icy or snowy sidewalk or other thoroughfare must show that the owner or manager of the property knew or should have known of the potentially dangerous condition. It also must be shown that the property owner/manager failed to take reasonable steps to remove the snow/ice or warn others of the danger.
As a general rule, in Pennsylvania, a property owner has 24 hours after the end of a snowstorm either to provide a warning or remove the snow. Pennsylvania also has a unique legal doctrine, known as the “hills and ridges” doctrine, whereby the duty of property owners only arises when the accumulation of snow or ice causes the formation of “hills” or “ridges.” This rule of law has three requirements:
- The accumulated snow or ice must be such that it unreasonably obstructs travel.
- The property owner/manager must have actual or constructive knowledge of the hill or ridge.
- The hill or ridge must have caused the injured person to slip or fall.
There is, however, an exception to the “hills and ridges” doctrine—it will not exculpate a property owner when dangerous conditions are created by some other type of negligence, such as improper building maintenance.
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At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP, we offer experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel to individuals in Pennsylvania. To set up an appointment for a free initial consultation, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online.
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