General Maryland law requires that all property be free from dangerous conditions that may harm others. But, often, local law provides some specifics when it comes to snow or ice. General Maryland law also provides that the violation of a statue may provide some evidence of negligence.
If ice or snow is allowed to remain on a sidewalk in violation of a local rule, liability for the landowner may result.
The Baltimore County Code has a provision that requires “within 24 hours after the fall of any snow, each person or public institution occupying or using a residential, commercial, or industrial building ….. shall remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, the snow from the foot pavements fronting the respective houses, stores, shops, stables, houses of worship, lots occupied by any buildings, unoccupied buildings, and unoccupied lots that run along streets in the county.” [§ 18-3-107. REMOVAL OF SNOW AND ICE.]
By its terms, that ordinance would appear to deal only with snow. The question might be asked by the probing insurance defense attorney if anyone slips on snow.
The Baltimore City Code has a provision dealing specifically with ice. “After any snowfall that results in an accumulation of snow or ice on the ground, the snow and ice must be removed and cleared away from all sidewalks that abut the premises.” [305.8 Snow and ice on sidewalks.] “The snow and ice must be removed and cleared away: 1. within 6 hours after the snow has stopped falling; or 2. if the snow stopped falling between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m., before 11 a.m. 305.8.1 Time for compliance. ] “ The snow and ice must be removed and cleared away in a manner that: 1. leaves a clear path that is at least 2 feet wide; and 2. does not obstruct the passage of water in the gutters.” [305.8.2] 12/01/15 -205- IPMC § 306 BALTIMORE CITY REVISED CODE.
The skilled personal injury attorney will argue that these, and other similar provisions from other jurisdictions, set the duty of the landowner to remove ice. The argument would be that the timeframes also create a duty to act, and to inspect to make sure the requirements are met.
Slip and falls caused by snow and ice are some of the most frequent, and most hotly contested legal actions. It's a natural fact of nature that people will fall on ice. What is not assumed is when a person, or business, becomes responsible for that ice.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 12/19/19.