New Law – Failure to Shovel Snow From Your Sidewalk Could Prove Costly
November 12, 2011
It used to be that an owners and occupiers of a property had a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition to prevent personal injury to occur. That is, the owner of the property had the duty to exercise reasonable care in making sure that conditions on his property where such that a reasonable person would not find them to be dangerous and would not end up harming and causing injuries to persons and property of those who would venture onto the property. That responsibility translated for example for the owner to make sure that a water well is fenced off, or that animals were properly fenced in and caged and such things to make sure people who are on the property would not be injured. Failure to follow the standard of care of course would be a civil offense and the owner would be open to a lawsuit should a person be victim of a personal injury as the result of the owner’s failure.
An exception however was carved in this duty for those who owned property and lived in a place, like Chicago, where the snow is a series problem. This exception provided for an immunity for the owners of a property from lawsuits in a case where they attempted to clean up the snow from their property–but they did so in a less than ideal manner. The philosophy was that it was better for the owners to clean up the sidewalks and driveways–albeit not perfectly–than not doing it at all.
Things are now being taken up a notch or two:
Chicagoans who neglect to shovel their snow-covered sidewalks this winter could be in for a big surprise — a warning notice, followed by a ticket — if an influential alderman has his way.After watching the Department of Streets and Sanitation showcase its “mobile electronic ticketing,” Ald. Tom Tunney 44th, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development, suggested Wednesday that the Blackberry technology be used to crack down on a chronic winter violation that endangers and infuriates pedestrians.
SO now we have a shift from a civil offense to a criminal offense where the State will fine you if you do not clean up. What will this do the exception provided under the law is unclear.