COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
By law in Missouri, there are two ways property owners could be liable for any injuries caused by snow and ice on sidewalks.
Jill Harper, a partner at the law firm of Harper Evans Wade Netemeyer, said it’s uncommon to have someone call about slipping and falling on a resident’s sidewalk, but there are two exceptions where homeowners could be held liable.
“The first exception is that if you artificially create something on the sidewalk so maybe you put a fountain there that causes extra snow or ice to build up then you could be held liable,” said Harper. “The second exception is the special use exception. So if you’re using the sidewalk for some extra special use, then yes you could be held liable.”
Harper does represent cases where tenants fall on sidewalks or parking lots at their apartment complex. In this case, landlords legally do not have to clear the walkways unless its in the lease agreement or if they start to clear the sidewalks.
“If they started to remove snow and ice or put down ice melt or something like that then yeah, that’s a case I could take,” said Harper. “Once they undertake the duty, so either by doing some action to do it or in your lease agreement then, yeah, you can go after your landlord or property owner for that.”
Delivery drivers who slip and fall due to snow and ice on the sidewalks could be covered by worker’s compensation rather than the property owner of where they fell.
“I represent them in a worker’s compensation case,” said Harper. “So, yes, their injuries are covered by their employer’s workers compensation insurance. I’m not actually going after the property owner of the house that they fell at."
Columbia’s Office of Neighborhood Services often hears that residents don't know they are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clear.
"The code lists several different parties but it is up to that person or business to clear the sidewalk,” said Kottwitz. “The city does not have the responsibility of clearing that sidewalk that's adjacent to private property."
The Office of Neighborhood Services has not given any tickets for snow-covered sidewalks so far this year but they have given many warnings.
Leigh Kottwitz with the Office of Neighborhood Services said they have had around 20 complaints filed about snow on residential property sidewalks.
“The reason for the ordinance is to help keep our community safe and accessible,” said Kottwitz. “We think that’s a positive message. We’ve had some really good response this year for property owners that have stepped up and are working really hard to keep their sidewalks clear.”
The Office of Neighborhood Services asks anyone who uses a snow-covered sidewalk to call the Contact Center and they will follow up and try to get the sidewalk clear.