It is worthwhile for property owners and businesses to prepare in advance for the expected snow and ice storms that will blanket our area as another winter season begins. The possibility for a person to slip and fall on ice or snow outside your insured business comes with every snow storm. Although the duty to avoid an accident occurring on premises owned or operated by a business is well known, the legal liability under Connecticut law for snow and ice conditions on public sidewalks is a little more murky. In order to offer better understanding on the responsibility of the owner or tenant of the property and to explore ways of reducing the adverse effects of the accident, the following brief reviews the possible liability businesses could face accidents due to snow and ice conditions on the public sidewalk that runs alongside their property.
Sidewalk Law in Connecticut
Usually, the adjoining landowner is under no obligation to maintain public sidewalks in a relatively safe condition in front of his or her property. Instead, it is the responsibility of the municipalities to maintain public sidewalks and, under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 13a-149, they are responsible for damages incurred by a violation of that duty.
Section 13a-149 states that any individual injured in person or property by means of a damaged road [here the word "road" that is used in the statute indicates a sidewalk] or a bridge can recover damages from a party bound to have it repaired.No action shall be taken against any town, city, corporation in respect of any such injury unless a written notice of such injury and a general overview of the same, and of the cause of such injury and of the time and place of its occurrence are given, within 90 days thereafter, to the selectman or clerk of that town, or to the clerk of that town or borough, or to the clerk of that city, or to the secretary of the that corporation.
While the responsibility for maintaining public sidewalks is usually the responsibility of municipalities, two exceptions to the general rule are recognised by the Connecticut courts. The first exception is when a statute or ordinance transfers the responsibility to the adjoining property owner to maintain the sidewalk in a safe condition and provides that the adjoining property owner is responsible for accidents incurred by his or her inability to do so. The second exception occurs when the risky condition of the public sidewalk has been generated by the constructive behaviour of the property owner. The first exception to the general rule also occurs in situations involving snow and ice conditions.
Responsibility of Property owners or Tenants
Connecticut has passed laws expressly allowing municipalities to adopt ordinances requiring owners or tenants to clear snow and ice from property sidewalks and to assign responsibility to property owners or tenants for damage associated with snow and ice on sidewalks. Section 7-163a of the Connecticut General Statutes provides, to the appropriate extent:
Many Connecticut municipalities have adopted laws following the provisions of § 7-163a of the Connecticut General Statutes. In cities and towns where such laws are enforced, a land owner or occupant may be held responsible within a reasonable period for not properly removing snow and ice from an adjoining sidewalk.
In those municipalities that have implemented section 7-163a, the responsibility of an adjoining property owner is to use sufficient care to maintain the sidewalks from snow and ice in a relatively secure condition. A plaintiff should show that the defendant had either real or constructive notice of the faulty condition in order to recover from injuries suffered in a slip and fall on a sidewalk due to the presence of snow and ice. Constructive notice is discovered when the state of snow and ice was present for a sufficient period of time, so that the defendant could have found it to inspect the sidewalk with good care. More importantly, the responsibility to use reasonable care takes into account the variety of conditions and circumstances produced by the winter rigours; therefore, before removing ice and snow from the sidewalk, the responsible party may await the end of a storm and a reasonable period thereafter. Therefore, determining when the particular icy condition was formed is important in defending against a claim of constructive notice. To determine a recent temperature fluctuation, a meteorological report might be useful to demonstrate that the situation was sudden and that there was no suitable time to discover it.
In addition, the injured plaintiff must show that, after having notified the claimed defect and having had a fair chance to remedy the defect, the defendant failed to do so. It is also necessary for a defendant to establish a sound excuse for not taking appropriate action to remedy the complained situation, such as having to devote available manpower to remedy other, more severe, situations, in order to demonstrate that he or she behaved reasonably.
To determine the applicability of the Connecticut General Statutes § 7-163a in your region and to clarify the procedures that you may enforce to mitigate liability for snow and ice fall related injuries, please contact Personal Injury Attorney in New Haven, CT