When to Add Salt

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Q: I live in a two-family house.  When a blizzard comes, I always wait ‘til the snow stops falling.  Then I go to the sidewalk and make a path with my shovel.  Afterwards, I sprinkle salt on the path.  One day, while the snow was still falling, my neighbor came out walking her dog.  She slipped and fell: says it’s my fault that there was ice underneath the snow.  Let me add that there had been no snow for two entire days prior to this incident.

A: The law is that an owner of real property, even if required by municipal ordinance to remove snow or ice from the sidewalk, is not liable in tort for injuries sustained by a pedestrian who slips and falls on an accumulation of snow or ice that is natural.  You are exposed to tort liability only if you previously made the sidewalk more hazardous – by carrying out some attempts at snow removal with negligence.

To raise what lawyers call a ‘triable issue’, your neighbor must show that, on a prior occasion, you were so negligent in attempting to remove snow that the ice on which she fell was the result.  Her speculation will not be enough.  This rule goes for other forms of snow removal, too, e.g. snow plowing.  The evidence must show (a) that the ice was the result of a prior snowfall and (b) that you carried out the prior snow shoveling with negligence.

To prevent the formation of ice, you always sprinkle salt.  That being the case, it is highly unlikely that you either created or heightened the hazardous condition.  Unless there is a detail that you have left out, your neighbor would have no case.  I hope that her lawyer will tell her so.

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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