With winter officially in full force, Massachusetts has already seen its fair share of snow. While it may be tempting to stay indoors by the fireplace and wait for warmer days to come — especially after a snowstorm — it is important that Massachusetts landowners ask themselves one critical question before doing so: did I remember to shovel?
Because of a major change in snow removal laws in 2010, Massachusetts property owners can now be held liable for snow or ice-related falls that happen on their land. In other words, Mass. residents and business owners need to pay close attention to accumulation of snow or ice on their walkways. If they fail to do so and somebody falls, they can face legal consequences.
The 2010 Supreme Judicial Court Ruling overturned a century-old snow removal law that did not hold property owners liable for injuries that occurred due to “natural accumulations” of snow. Property owners today do not have this luxury, and instead have a legal obligation to keep their walkways free from slippery ice and snow.
How much time property owners have to remove snow depends on where they are in the state. For example, Boston commercial (or business) property owners have three hours after snow stops falling to clear it, while private (or resident) property owners have six hours. About 40 miles west, in the city of Worcester, sidewalks must be cleared within 10 hours of the snowfall stopping.
Premises liability lawsuits can be filed against property owners who do not comply with snow removal laws. Multiple claims can be made in these lawsuits, including if a property owner fails to:
- Hire a snow removal professional
- Post warning signs about hazardous/slippery walking conditions
- Monitor slippery conditions and address them in a timely manner
- Comply with accepted snow industry practices
- Clear paved areas, parking lots, and sidewalks
If someone fails to properly manage snowy or icy walkways, dangerous falls can result. For vulnerable populations, these falls can have fatal consequences.
If you or a loved one has experienced a slip-and-fall accident because of a property owner’s failure to comply with snow removal laws, consider reaching out to us today at 617-391-9001 to discuss your legal options.
A partner at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP in Boston, J. Tucker Merrigan represents individual clients throughout all of Massachusetts and the United States—concentrating his practice on cases that involve personal injury, defective medical devices, dangerous drugs, wrongful death, premises liability, products liability, medical malpractice, and insurance law. Known for strong client relationships and positive results, Merrigan has been named a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney by National Trial Lawyers from 2015-2018 and named Super Lawyer Rising Star for 2018.