Massachusetts law requires removal of snow and ice

Last week, the state of Massachusetts got an early taste of winter when an early winter storm moved through the region and dropped up to 9 inches of snow in some areas. The nor’easter caused numerous car accidents, including one fatal accident ton Route 28 in Bourne on Thursday morning.

The cold temperatures, snow and ice also made for some very dangerous sidewalk conditions in many parts of the state. With winter now upon us, Massachusetts residents need to be prepared to keep their property safe by removing snow and ice, especially in the wake of a 2010 change in law.

Before the 2010 law change, the state followed a “natural accumulation rule,” which essentially protected Massachusetts property owners from being held liable in personal injury lawsuits involving snow and ice. In fact, the only time the property owner could face liability was if someone was injured due to snow or ice that was “unnatural” or altered by human actions.

However, that is no longer the case. A July 2010 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case changed the long-standing rule and made it so property owners can now be held liable if someone is injured on their property because they failed to remove dangerous snow and ice, regardless of how it got there.

As the law stands today, property owners have a duty to exercise responsible care in removing dangerous snow and ice from their property and if this duty is breached and someone passing by is injured because of it, the property owner could face a civil lawsuit. The person injured may be entitled to damages for medical expenses resulting from the injury as well as lost wages.

Keep this “new” law in mind as more winter storms roll into the region throughout the season.

Source: Boston Globe, “Nor’easter drops up to 9 inches of snow on Mass.,” Rodrique Nigowi, Nov. 8, 2012