Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Snow and ice in July

The SJC has released a decision changing the way liability is measured for clearing snow and ice on real property. The longstanding rule in Massachusetts, in which a property owner is not liable in tort for failing to remove a natural accumulation of snow and ice, was unique in this country, and was referred to as the "Massachusetts rule." There has been a distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow, as well a distinctions between duty to different types of parties, such as tenants, invitees, licensees and trespassers.
Now in keeping with common and statutory law across the country, property owners are now responsible for removal of unsafe conditions.
"We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to "act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk." Young v. Garwacki, 380 Mass. 162... This introduces no special burden on property owners. If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect lawful visitors against the danger..."
To read the case, look for Papadopoulos vs. Target Corporation.