In a prior post on this blog (https://www.whelan-law.com/you-may-have-to-shovel-while-its-still-coming-down/), we reported the Appellate Division decision requiring property owners to start shoveling during a snowstorm to avoid the imposition of negligence for a falldown on the premises. That decision has recently been reversed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Prior to the Appellate Division decision, landowners were safe waiting until the storm ceased before being obligated to treat and clear the snow and ice. That is known as the ongoing storm rule. The Supreme Court has now upheld that rule.
In the case before the Supreme Court, the plaintiff slipped and fell on ice on defendant’s property, suffering a broken hip. During the night prior to plaintiff’s accident, there was a mix of sleet and freezing rain. At the time of the plaintiff’s accident, light rain and freezing rain were still falling. Plaintiff’s expert stated that the property owner could have prevented the snow and ice buildup that caused plaintiff’s slip and fall by pretreating the sidewalk.
The court held that property owners need not remove snow and ice buildup until after precipitation from a snow and ice storm had ceased falling. However, if the property owner’s conduct increased the risk of injury to visitors, or if the buildup of ice and snow already existed prior to the beginning of the storm, then the owner might be liable for not removing the ice and snow.
The majority of the Northeast states follow the ongoing storm rule. Massachusetts is the exception and allows a plaintiff to have a jury decide whether the landowner’s actions were reasonable.
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