In Minneapolis residents residents are reminded by the local authority to clear the snow on the pavement (sidewalk). The authority’s website says politely that ‘Keeping our sidewalks free of ice and snow is the neighbourly thing to do’. It then goes on to make it clear that residents that the law “requires that property owners clear sidewalks after the end of a snowfall within 24 hours for houses and duplexes, Four daytime hours for apartment and commercial buildings (daytime hours begin at 8am)”.
In the UK the Telegraph rather unhelpfully reported in January 2010 that “Health and safety experts warn: don’t clear icy pavements, you could get sued”. The government has now made it clear that you can clear snow with a proviso that you should avoid making the pavement more dangerous. It then says: “don’t be put off clearing paths because you’re afraid someone will get injured… Remember, people walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful themselves. Follow the advice below to make sure you clear the pathway safely and effectively.”
David Howarth who is a former MP for Cambridge and a former lecturer in Law at Cambridge University goes further. He says “furthermore, in the very unlikely case where the intervention does make the situation more risky, it is not enough to show that the passer-by fell over. The passer-by would have to show that he would not have fallen over anyway, or would not have injured himself just as badly in some other way – something that is very hard to do”.
He goes on the say “Finally, even if the risk was made worse and the injury was caused specifically by the enhancement of the risk that the householder was responsible for, there is still no liability unless the passer-by can prove that the householder acted in an unreasonable way. Since most people think, as you and I do, that it is perfectly reasonable to clear the snow from the pavement outside one’s house, even if the case had not been thrown out previously, it would fail on this point.” Finally that “There is no known case of anyone in this country ever being sued successfully in these circumstances“.
He signs off saying “There is no need for a change in the law. What we need instead is a change in the quality of the people who write and edit newspapers“!
So, get clearing!