With another Connecticut winter quickly approaching - and with it, the inevitable accumulation of snow and ice - it is a good time to review who may be responsible if you suffer an injury after slipping on an icy or improperly cleared public sidewalk.
However, while slip-and-fall liability is relatively straightforward when injuries happen in privately owned businesses, legal accountability is often less clear when the injuries occur on public sidewalks.
This confusion is primarily due to a Connecticut statute that initially places the blame squarely on cities and municipalities when someone suffers an injury as a result of the city's failure to reasonably maintain sidewalks in a safe condition, including situations involving the inadequate removal of snow and ice. However, it is important to be aware that there are two very crucial exceptions to this rule:
- When the landowner abutting the sidewalk creates the dangerous condition through a positive act
- When the city has created a law or ordinance that expressly states the abutting landowner is responsible for clearing the sidewalk of snow and ice AND the landowner is liable if he or she fails to do so
As to the second exception referenced above, it is actually quite common - not to mention permissible under Connecticut law - for cities to pass ordinances that shift sidewalk liability to abutting landowners.
For instance, in Town of Stratford, there is an ordinance that states the town "shall not be liable to any person injured [...] by the presence of ice or snow on a public sidewalk," unless the town owns or controls the land abutting the sidewalk. Stratford also has another ordinance that clearly says abutting landowners are responsible for clearing ice and snow from sidewalks, and that they are liable if someone is injured when they fail to do so.
However, you should keep in mind that while these ordinances are common in many cities, they may vary from location to another. This is one reason why it is best to contact professional legal guidance as soon as possible if you have suffered a slip-and-fall injury on an icy sidewalk.
Source: Connecticut General Assembly, Conn. Gen. States & sect; 13a-149, Access Nov. 12, 2015
Source: Town of Stratford Ordinances, Chapter 186, Article VII: Snow and Ice Removal, Access Nov. 12, 2015