During snowy weeks such as we have had in Rhode Island this week, it is always important for business owners and landlords to review their legal responsibilities regarding snow and ice on their property.
Courts in Rhode Island follow the “Connecticut Rule” regarding the duty of a landlord or a business owner to clear snow accumulation and treat surfaces impacted by a storm. See Benaski v. Weinberg , 899 A.2d 499, 502 (R.I. 2006).
However, the duty does not kick in until a “reasonable time” after the storm has ended. In other words, you don’t have to “catch… the flakes before they hit the ground.” Berardis v. Louangxay, 969 A.2d 1288, 1293 (R.I. 2009).
This “Rule” only encompasses one legal duty recognized in Rhode Island common law. However, a business owner or a landlord might have duties arising from other sources such as a contract, a lease or, such as in the City of Providence, an ordinance requiring clearance of sidewalks within the first 8 hours of daylight after the end of any snowfall (a much discussed topic at the GCPVD blog).
If one fails to abide by legally recognized duties, they could be held liable for any injuries sustained on the property.
Clear snow. Treat the surface. And stay safe!
If you have any questions, contact Rhode Island attorney Matthew Jerzyk.