In New York City, a landowner has the duty to clear snow and ice from the sidewalk, and their failure to do so can be the basis for liability in a slip and fall case. This is true for a private landowner, as well as the City. However, a long standing defense for landowners in snow and ice cases is the “Storm in Progress” defense. Courts have long recognized that the duty of the property owner to clear snow and ice from public paths, parking lots, roadways, and sidewalks, does not commence until a reasonably sufficient time after a storm has ended.
In the simplest terms, the landowner can wait until after a snow storm stops before clearing snow and ice from his property. There is no bright-line rule as to how long a property owner can wait before clearing snow and ice. The City is generally afforded a longer time frame to clear snow and ice from its properties than a private landowner, due to the sheer volume of land it is responsible for. What will be defined as a reasonable period of time depends on a number of factors, including how much snow had fallen, and the type of premises (e.g., private homes versus commercial buildings).
In the end, what constitutes a reasonably sufficient time from when the storm ends will generally be left for a jury to decide. In view of this, the specific facts of your potential case have to be thoroughly investigated. This investigation includes determining what party was responsible for maintaining the area where you fell, obtaining weather records for not just the day of your accident but for the days and weeks prior, and depending on the facts your case, consulting with qualified, experienced weather and engineering experts.
Indeed, even if it is snowing or sleeting at the time of your slip and fall accident, it does not mean that you cannot pursue a lawsuit against the parties responsible for maintaining the area where you fell. Every case is different. It may be possible to prove that while the storm was ongoing, there were only trace amounts of precipitation in the time leading up to your accident, or that the snow and ice you fell on was the not the result of the ongoing storm, but of a prior storm which had ceased well before your accident.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a slip and fall accident on snow or ice, contact our office for a free consultation.