The Philadelphia area, and, for that matter, the entire Northeast United States, has seen its share of snow this winter. What follows immediately after a snowstorm, other than babies born nine months thereafter, is people injuring themselves in slip and fall accidents. Slip and fall accidents are a natural progression from the actual snowfall. We work on snow. We drive on snow. We fall on snow.
What is the responsibility of a property owner to clear their property of snow. When must they do it? Do they have to do it at all? The answer appears to be you have to clear your property of snow, but you can at least wait until after it stops snowing.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed this issue in the case of Collins v. Philadelphia Southern Development Corp. (Pa. Super. Jan. 31, 2018).
The undisputed and most important fact in the case was that the plaintiff slipped and fell in the middle of a blizzard. The Superior Court ruled that a landowner has no obligation to correct the conditions of a winter storm until a reasonable time after the storm has ended. A landowner has no duty to keeps one’s walk or lot free and clear of ice and snow amid a blizzard.
The question that begs to be answered is what is a reasonable time to give a landowner to clear their property of snow and ice. Is it immediately after the storm? Or do they have one day? Or one week?
The answer to that question in Pennsylvania is what is known as the “hills and ridges” doctrine.
In a forthcoming post, we will go into the intricacies of this most litigated piece of legal handiwork. Suffice to say that you are better off not walking outside during a blizzard. If you do and fall and hurt yourself on someone’s property because they did not shovel, you may not bring a claim. Stay home. Wait till the blizzard is over.