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The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – As winter weather begins to set in, property owners need to be aware of their responsibilities when it comes to snow and ice removal.

“Despite what many think, liability is not automatic when somebody falls, slips, trips on ice on someone else’s property,” said Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen. “Generally speaking, the law does not hold property owners responsible if there is a fall or injury because of natural accumulation. However, there are things that will impose a duty or that homeowners can do to basically make it worse and make it a liability.”

Is liability automatic? According to McNairy, it’s not.

“For example, a lease may state that a landlord has a responsibility to remove snow and ice under the lease. Or a local ordinance may say if a business is open they have an obligation to remove snow and ice for their patrons but, generally speaking, a homeowner does not have that responsibility unless they do something and make it worse,” she said.

“For example, if there is a gutter that’s leaking water across a sidewalk and a homeowner doesn’t do anything and it freezes over, that can instill some responsibility on the homeowner.”

McNairy said the lesson here is if you’re attempting to do any snow or ice removal, you must do so carefully and make things safer, not more dangerous.