Reversal of legal risks over (not) clearing snow in the US

In the UK, the story is usually about how it’s ok to remove snow, as you won’t be sued if someone still falls over. In the US, however, the story is reversed – with the fear of legal action being about if you don’t remove snow:

John Merian spent four hours on Monday morning shoveling his Brockton driveway. Then he headed downtown to shovel out his Main Street business, Tuxedos by Merian.

It’s a routine the family has followed for 60 years. But thanks to a summertime court decision, business owners like Merian now have an added incentive to clear away the snow: If they don’t, they can be sued.

A ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court in July eliminated the so-called “Massachusetts rule” that differentiated between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice on property.

For the first time, property owners can be held liable for injuries suffered on “naturally occurring” ice and snow. Until now, business owners and homeowners were protected when sued over falls caused by snow and ice storms. [Patriot Ledger]

In other words, you have a legal responsibility to keep your patch safe – and if you don’t live up to it, you could be sued.

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