Snow on Sunday, Ice on Wednesday

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Q: On the weekend, there had been a blizzard.  On Wednesday, right before midnight, there was 6 to 12 inches of snow on the sidewalk, and there was ice on the paved roadway into the outdoor municipal parking lot.  I slipped and fell on that ice.

A: Presumably, the municipality had enacted a ‘prior written notice’ statute.  If so, the municipality may not be subjected to liability for injuries caused by a dangerous condition that comes within the ambit of that statute – unless (a) prior written notice of the defect or dangerous condition has been given to someone specified in the statute, like the Town Clerk or Town Superintendent of Highways, or (b) an exception to the ‘prior written notice’ requirement applies.

Two exceptions to the ‘prior written notice’ requirement have been recognized: (1) where the locality created the defect or hazard through an affirmative act of negligence and (2) where a special use confers a special benefit upon the locality.  A classic example of the first exception is where the defendant affirmatively created the dangerous ice condition through its snow removal operations.  Step one, as part of its snow removal efforts, the town piled snow.  Step two, the snow pile melted.  Step three, the pile refroze to create the ice on which you slipped and fell.  If so, the town’s merely piling the snow constituted an affirmative act excepting the ice from the ‘prior written notice’ requirement.

Let us suppose (a) that the town lacked prior written notice of the ice condition, and (b) that the town last performed its snow removal operations on Sunday.  Your attorney will seek evidence about both the town’s general snow removal operations and what the area looked like immediately after the town completed Sunday’s snow removal operations.  He or she will also be keen to know what the temperature was from then until the time of the accident.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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