Slips on Snow or Ice
We typically receive several calls each winter regarding falls on ice or snow. These slips and falls can be serious. I once encountered a case in which a business patron actually had his leg amputated, resulting from complications of a fall on ice.
However, most people misunderstand what obligations property owners have regarding snow and ice. Contrary to popular belief, property owners and business owners generally have no duty to clear snow and ice. (They often mistakenly believe that they do, and accordingly clear the ice and snow.)
In Ohio, snow and ice are considered general hazards of living in the northern parts of the United States. Everyone is supposed to take care to avoid slipping on snow or ice. In most cases, if a business owner fails to shovel the snow or put salt on ice, and you fall, you have no case against the business owner (or homeowner, or whomever). Shoveling snow or removing ice is, legally speaking, merely a courtesy extended to the walking public.
There is one major exception, however. If a property owner creates an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice, then the owner can be liable. For example, a property owner has a gutter that is facing in a direction that causes water to flow over a walking surface. The water freezes and causes a slip hazard. The owner can be liable in that situation.
More complicated are the “snow pile” cases. Store owners with large parking lots plow the snow into large piles. The snow starts to melt, creating new ice. Courts have gone both ways on these cases. Ultimately, whether the ice unnaturally accumulated will be the deciding factor.
If you think that you may have a case arising from a slip on ice, please call us at 740-374-5346.