Many Philadelphia residents are unaware of the local city rules regarding snow removal on their property. This can lead to potential liability associated with failing to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or roadway located on your property lines. If a pedestrian is walking on the sidewalk in front your homes and slips on ice or snow, you can be sued and held responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries and medical bills.
Philadelphia Code 10-72, requires that the owner, agent, and tenants of any building or premises to clear a path “not less than 36 inches in width” within 6 hours after snow has ceased falling. Yes, tenants are included in this law, meaning if you are renting your residence or place of business, you can be found responsible for failure to remove the snow and ice in a timely manner. You also need to be aware of the language in your lease with your landlord as many leases will state that the tenant is solely responsible for the snow and ice removal on the property.
One way that property owners and tenants may be able to avoid liability is due to what is called the “hills and ridges doctrine” in Pennsylvania law. Specially, the “hills and ridges doctrine” provides that an injured party must show:
1) the snow and ice on the sidewalk had accumulated in ridges or elevations of such size that they unreasonably obstructed travel;
2) the property owner had actual or constructive notice of the condition; and
3) it was the dangerous accumulation of snow and ice that caused the plaintiff to fall.
Pennsylvania courts established this law based on the fact that when there is a general accumulation of snow and ice after a winter storm, a pedestrian is better prepared to exercise caution and should do so when walking on a slick path.
However, when a localized patch of ice exists versus a recent, general accumulation of snow resulting from a winter storm, the injured person does not need to establish the “hills and ridges” requirements. As the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania stated: [W]here a specific, localized patch of ice exits, it is comparatively easy for a property owner to take the necessary steps to alleviate the condition, while at the same time considerably more difficult for the pedestrian to avoid it even exercising the utmost care.” Williams v. Shultz, 429 Pa. 429, 433 (Pa. 1968).
Thus, the best way to avoid these issues is to make sure to salt your property prior to an impending storm and to make sure to make the necessary arrangements to remove the snow and ice soon after the storm ends.
For more information, call Philadelphia personal injury law firm of Edelstein Law at 215-893-9311 or 856-809-3150 in New Jersey, or complete the online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Many Philadelphia residents are unaware of the local city rules regarding snow removal on their property. This can lead to potential liability associated with failing to remove snow and ice from a sidewalk or roadway located on your property lines.