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Snow removal ordinances and premises liability

Posted on in Premises Liability

The snowstorm hit hard and quickly during the early morning of February 1 this year. Chicago residents know how to handle snow but the conditions of this storm were perfect for slippery paths and sidewalks and a number of individuals were caught off guard.

Just 20 minutes into the storm, first responders saw head injuries, a broken arm, and one person knocked unconscious. Roughly 135 miles south of Chicago at the University of Illinois in Champaign, were it is not uncommon to have busy sidewalks at 1 a.m., students were falling all over the place.

Police officers acted quickly and started to spread salt on the sidewalks to avert more falls. Officers hoped to prevent additional injuries to pedestrians. The number of injuries may have been much worse if law enforcement had waited for businesses to open and take care of the salting and clearing of sidewalks themselves.

But businesses and property owners do have some responsibility to clear slippery and dangerous conditions. For example, in Champaign, once a snow removal ordinance is issued, businesses have 48 hours to clear their walks. Failure to comply means the business will be charged a fee for outside removal services.

Likewise, the city of Urbana only gives businesses 24 hours after such an ordinance is issued. The cities monitor the conditions but also rely on citizens to report problem areas.

In a premises liability situation, non-compliance with a snow removal ordinance could be evidence that the property owner was aware of a dangerous condition and failed to fix the problem. If a victim suffers a slip and fall injury due to a business& non-compliance, the victim may be able to recover financial compensation for the injury.

Source: The Daily Illini, "Slick sidewalks send students to hospital; officers salt walkways for safety," Brittney Nadler, Feb. 12, 2014

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