Welcome to TNYMMLB's SNOW DAY EDITION . Today, we talk about, what else, snow.
What is a landowner's duty to those who might walk by or through his land when there is a snow storm? The Appellate Division, First Department wrote on this as recently as December 9, 2008, in Espinell v. Disckson , NY Slip Op 09638 (1 st Dept. 2008) , a case in which plaintiff had slipped, fallen and injured himself on an icy patch of defendant's sidewalk the morning after some mixed precipitation, including snow and ice.
The Court granted defendant's summary judgment motion (for dismissal), finding that the defendant landowner did not have sufficient notice of the ice, and therefore could not have been reasonably expected to remove it prior to plaintiff's fall. In coming to its decision, the Court noted that such a landowner's duty to take “reasonable measures” to keep his property safe is suspended during the snow storm, and does not begin until a “reasonable time” after the storm has stopped. What is a “reasonable time”? That would be the time period in which the landowner should have taken notice of the dangerous condition, and “in the exercise of reasonable care,” addressed it so as to render it safe.
The Court found that defendant landowner lacked notice because the ice patch was not “readily visible,” and because of the short interval of time between the end of the storm, and plaintiff's fall. (The snow had stopped completely by 7:00 a.m., and the accident occurred at 8:45 a.m.)
What can we learn from this? Landowners, don't rely on what any court might think is reasonable. Clean up the snow and ice that collects, often and well. Pedestrians, be careful out there. But, if you are going to fall and hurt yourself, make sure to tell the landowner about the icy condition ahead of time.