- posted: Jan. 22, 2024
- Personal Injury
In Tennessee, as in other states, property owners are under a duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition for visitors and other people who might be expected to enter. This duty includes keeping sidewalks, walkways and steps free of ice and snow that can create slip and fall hazards.
Tennessee follows the “natural accumulation” rule. It requires that property owners take reasonable measures to remove snow and ice within a reasonable time after it has formed or accumulated, provided that they are aware of or should be aware of the condition. What measures are reasonable and what period of time is reasonable can be tricky questions.
There are many factors that can determine reasonableness, such as the amount of the accumulation, how long it persisted and what actions the owner took to remediate it. If the owner shoveled the snow from the sidewalk but left a coating of ice and failed to apply sand or salt, he or she may have worsened the hazard. Also relevant are the costs and difficulties of remediating the accumulation.
A property owner’s liability for an accident may depend not only on the accumulation rule but also on whether there is a relevant municipal ordinance. Many Tennessee cities and towns require property owner and occupants, including homeowners and businesses, to clear adjacent sidewalks and walkways of snow and ice. For example, a Bristol municipal ordinance states that “immediately after a snow or sleet, [occupants of property] are required to remove all accumulated snow or ice from the abutting sidewalk.” This ordinance, like many, is vague about when the duty to remove is triggered. Does “after a snow or sleet” refer to when the storm ends or when the accumulation begins? Ordinances around the state also set varying time frames within which ice and snow must be cleared.
Violation of a municipal ordinance — which is usually punishable by a fine — does not by itself create liability for a property owner if a slip and fall occurs due to ice and snow build up. However, a violation may bear on whether the owner failed to take reasonable measures to remediate the accumulation.
Property owners have the ultimate duty to keep their premises safe, but they are not the insurers of the public’s safety from all hazards. If you have been injured due to slipping and falling on ice or snow on someone’s property or on an abutting sidewalk, a knowledgeable Tennessee premises liability lawyer can advise you on whether you have a viable claim for recovering money damages.
Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. in Bristol has more than 65 years of combined legal experience protecting the rights of slip and fall injury victims in the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee/Virginia. For a free initial consultation, call us today at 423-797-6022 or contact us online.