The most wonderful time of the year is also the most slippery time of the year because of both the natural and unnatural accumulation of ice and snow. With those accumulations come slip and fall injuries. These Rhode Island and Massachusetts accidents most often occur in public places like sidewalks and parking lots.
The duty to the public-The Old Common Law Rule
The old general common law rule doesn’t require an owner or occupier of land to remove natural accumulations of snow or ice from their premises. The rational behind this rule is that the natural accumulation is a condition that’s open and obvious, and anybody who intends on walking on it should proceed with caution.
“The natural accumulation rule essentially states that a property owner or possessor (for the purpose of this article, we will refer to property owners and possessors collectively as “owner(s)”) does not owe a common law duty to remove natural accumulations of ice, snow, or water from his property.” Slips Falls and The Natural Accumulation Rule By Jason G. Schutte and Eric Waldman http://bnpn.com/BNPN/files/55/55190bb7-db4b-447f-a7d8-c6682af3e63f.pdf
Modern Rule adopted by Rhode Island, Connecticut and other States
Rhode Island and Providence Plantation does not follow the outmoded and outdated common law natural accumulation rules. The Ocean State follows the so called ‘Connecticut Rule’ Concerning the duty of owners to protect guests from falling on their premises. “Under the Connecticut Rule, a landlord or business invitor clearly has a duty to his tenants or invitees to clear snow accumulation and treat surfaces impacted by a storm. Id. at 502 (citing Fuller, 108 R.I. at 772, 279 A.2d at 440). However, this duty does not arise until a reasonable time after the storm has ended. Id. at 503 (citing Fuller, 108 R.I. at 774, 279 A.2d at 441); see also Barenbaum v. Richardson, 114 R.I. 87, 93, 328 A.2d 731, 734 (1974).” HABERSHAW v. MICHAELS STORES, INC. 42 A.3d 1273 (2012) Supreme Court of Rhode Island.Maureen HABERSHAW et al. v. MICHAELS STORES, INC. et al.No. 2011–94–Appeal. Decided: May 17, 2012 Present: SUTTELL, C.J., GOLDBERG, FLAHERTY, ROBINSON, and INDEGLIA, JJ. – See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ri-supreme-court/1601260.html#sthash.YiIFWyd2.dpuf
The Top Court in RI, The Rhode Island Supreme Court, presiding in Providence, in HABERSHAW v. MICHAELS STORES, INC. 42 A.3d 1273 (2012), http://www.leagle.com/decision/In+RICO+20120517562 stated “It also is well settled in our jurisprudence that there is an affirmative duty on owners and possessors of property: “to exercise reasonable care for the safety of persons reasonably expected to be on the premises * * * includ[ing] an obligation to protect against the risks of a dangerous condition existing on the premises, provided the landowner knows of, or by the exercise of reasonable care would have discovered, the dangerous condition.” Kurczy v. St. Joseph Veterans Association, Inc., 820 A.2d 929, 935 (R.I.2003) (quoting Tancrelle v. Friendly Ice Cream Corp., 756 A.2d 744, 752 (R.I. 2000)); accord Mead v. Papa Razzi Restaurant, 840 A.2d 1103, 1107 (R.I.2004).” see also: http://www.ripersonalinjurylaw.com/slip-fall-ri-premises-liability-accident/
Massachusetts duty to remove snow and ice
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (MA) in Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, 457 Mass 368 (2010), refused to distinguish between the duty landowners owe lawful visitors to the property for ice and snow as they owe a duty for other dangerous conditions on land. The MA Supreme Judicial court stated: “We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.”, Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, 457 Mass 368 (2010),
“The duty of the landlord being to exercise reasonable care to prevent the occurrence of defective or dangerous conditions in the common approaches, the fact that a particular danger arose from the fall of snow or the freezing of ice can afford no ground of distinction” Id.
“Because we now abolish the distinction between the natural and unnatural accumulation of snow and ice, and because we apply the premises liability standard of reasonable care retroactively to injuries from slips and falls arising from accumulations of snow and ice, we vacate the allowance of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and remand the case to the Superior Court for reconsideration of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in light of this opinion.” http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ma-supreme-judicial-court/1532932.html see also: http://www.massachusettspersonalinjurylawlawyer.com/ma-slip-and-fall-case-is-a-landmark-ruling-by-massachusetts-high-court/ Id.
An unnatural accumulation might result from:
• A downspout that causes puddles that freeze over on a sidewalk
• Snow or ice accumulation due to the sloping surface of a sidewalk or parking lot
• Snow has been shoveled and then melts, and ice forms.
Regardless of a natural or unnatural accumulation of snow or ice, if lighting conditions are inadequate, the owner or occupier of the premises could be held liable for a slip and fall.
The ordinary care rule
Some jurisdictions don’t follow the natural vs. unnatural accumulation rule. In those places, owners or occupiers of land are required to exercise reasonable care and take reasonable steps to remedy the slippery condition within a reasonable time after the snow and ice has accumulated. Reasonableness is almost always an ultimate fact question for a jury to decide. This is the rule adopted by Massachusetts and Rhode Island
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sitting in Boston Mass. stated “The reasonable care standard we adopt is sometimes referred to as the “Connecticut rule,” because of the Supreme Court of Connecticut’s decision in Reardon v. Shimelman, 102 Conn. 383 (1925), rejecting the Massachusetts rule of natural accumulation and adopting instead a rule requiring a landlord to exercise reasonable care in preventing dangerous conditions in common areas due to accumulations of snow and ice. See, e.g., Makeeff v. Bismarck, 693 N.W.2d 639, 642 (N.D. 2005); 2 N.J. Landau & E.C. Martin, Premises Liability Law and Practice § 8A.04[c], at 8A-122 — 8A-125 (2010). The majority of States have followed the Connecticut rule rather than the Massachusetts rule of natural accumulation. See id. at 8A-122 — 8A-123. See also G. Weissenberger & B.B. McFarland, Premises Liability § 4.6, at 102-104; § 9.15, at 259-261 (2001), and cases cited. In 1989, however, the Supreme Court of Connecticut added a new variant to the so-called Connecticut rule, providing that “in the absence of unusual circumstances, a property owner, in fulfilling the duty owed to invitees upon his property to exercise reasonable diligence in removing dangerous accumulations of snow and ice, may await the end of a storm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing ice and snow from outside walks and steps.” Kraus v. Newton, 211 Conn. 191, 197-198 (1989). Because the plaintiff here did not slip on snow or ice during a snow storm, we need not and do not decide today whether we agree with this interpretation of the duty of reasonable care. The decision whether to adopt such an interpretation should await our review of a case that presents such facts, where the issue may be fully briefed.” http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/457/457mass368.html
Slip and falls on snow and ice are common in almost all states, but they’re also highly litigated cases. If snow or ice caused an injury to you or somebody close to you through a slip and fall in a parking lot, sidewalk or elsewhere, contact a Rhode Island slip and fall attorney or a MA premises liability lawyer for a free consultation and case evaluation. A Rhode Island personal injury attorney or MA personal injury lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve.You might be entitled to compensation for damages. No attorney fees are due unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you.
Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.