Winters in New York can be brutal. Blizzards and storms can bring cold temperatures and significant snowfalls, making travel treacherous.
Premises liability holds property owners accountable for injuries on their property. However, during ongoing storms, the storm-in-progress doctrine acts as a shield, protecting property owners from specific claims related to snow and ice incidents.
Reasons behind the rule
More than 60% of The Empire State gets over 70 inches of snow every year. In Syracuse, at least 0.1 inches of snow falls for 65.5 days annually, totaling 127.8 inches. When snow falls for days on end, clearing it is problematic.
The storm-in-progress doctrine finds its roots in balancing responsibilities. Property owners can not predict or control when a storm will hit. Holding them accountable for accidents during a storm would be unrealistic. This rule acknowledges the challenges property owners face in dealing with hazardous conditions while a storm is still happening.
The doctrine allows property owners a reasonable timeframe to address hazardous conditions. It considers factors like the storm’s intensity, duration and the property owner’s ability to take necessary precautions. This doctrine also underscores the impracticality of expecting instant snow and ice removal during a storm.
Risks of slips and falls
Even with the storm in progress doctrine, slips and falls on snow and ice lead to injuries. Icy sidewalks, parking lots and snowy pathways create risky conditions, often resulting in fractures, sprains and concussions.
Walk with smaller steps, keep your center of gravity over your feet and wear slip-resistant footwear. Utilize handrails for support, and be aware of hidden ice patches. Taking these precautions ensures safer mobility and reduces the chances of accidents during wintry weather.
While the storm-in-progress doctrine offers protection, property owners should still take steps to reduce risks whenever possible. This may include regular snow and ice removal, using warning signs and ensuring well-lit pathways. Addressing potential hazards promptly helps property owners contribute to overall safety.
Property owners remain responsible for maintaining reasonably safe conditions. Victims may seek compensation if they can demonstrate that the property owner failed to take reasonable precautions, contributing to their injury.