When snow or ice accumulates on New York City’s sidewalks after snowfall, who is legally responsible for its removal? What are the actual obligations and punishments for failing to clear the sidewalk? If a person is injured because of slippery conditions from the snow or ice, can a property manager or owner be held liable? TalksOnLaw’s Joel Cohen explains the obligations to clear snow and ice and the fines for failure to remove it under New York City Administrative Code §16-123. He explores when property managers or owners may be liable for a pedestrian injury and why slip and fall on ice and snow claims are often dismissed in the courts.
Property managers and owners generally must remove ice or snow from their property or the sidewalks adjoining their property within four hours after the snow stops falling. The four hour period does not apply during 9pm and 7am.
The New York City Administrative Code § 16-123(a) provides:
Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant, or other person, having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city, abutting upon any street where the sidewalk is paved, shall, within four hours after the snow ceases to fall, or after the deposit of any dirt or other material upon such sidewalk, remove the snow or ice, dirt, or other material from the sidewalk and gutter, the time between nine post meridian and seven ante meridian not being included in the above period of four hours. Such removal shall be made before the removal of snow or ice from the roadway by the commissioner or subject to the regulations of such commissioner. In the boroughs of Queens and Staten Island, any owner, lessee, tenant or occupant or other person who has charge of any ground abutting upon any paved street or public place, for a linear distance of five hundred feet or more, shall be considered to have complied with this section, if such person shall have begun to remove the snow or ice from the sidewalk and gutter before the expiration of such four hours and shall continue and complete such removal within a reasonable time.
Fines for Violations
The New York City Administrative Code § 16-123 provides the following fines for failing to remove snow or ice:
Slip and Fall Injury Claims on Snow or Ice
If a person is injured after falling on ice or snow on another’s property or sidewalk adjoining the property, the injured party may have a personal injury claim. Property managers or owners may be liable if they:
The property manager or owner is not liable if a person is injured while snow is still falling or . Courts will assess whether a reasonable time has passed after snowfall during which the property manager or owner should have cleared the snow.
New York City Slip & Fall Liability in the Snow
Joel Cohen (JC): With snow and ice a guarantee in New York City's winters, today, we'll take a look at who's responsible when someone falls or is injured when walking down New York's streets. We'll be talking about slip and fall liability, New York City, in the snow. Hello, and welcome to TalksOnLaw. I'm Joel Cohen.
New York City Administrative Code § 16-123
JC: Today, as we slip into this conversation on liability, we'll be looking mostly at a specific regulation: New York City Code 16-123. So first off, what does 16-123 set forth as the obligation? For those local New Yorkers, you won't be surprised. The obligation goes on the building owner, the building leaser, or the occupant. That's why the condo doorman is outside scraping up snow. So when does the obligation actually kick in? Is it at the first snowflake to hit the pavement? Is it at a certain amount of accumulation to accrue on the city sidewalk? No. When does it kick in? Four hours after the end of the snowstorm but with a very important exception, which is that the time between 9 pm and 7 am is excluded from that four hour window. In other words, if the snowstorm ends at 9 pm at night, that four hour time window doesn't actually start until 7 am the next day, so they'd have until 11 am to clear the sidewalk.
Fines for Violations
JC: Now, let's talk about penalty. Here, we're not talking about liability in terms of a lawsuit. We're talking about city fines to the building owners or the building occupants who have the obligation to keep the sidewalk clear. First offense, it's pretty cheap: $10 to $150. Second offense within the same year will jump up about a hundred bucks from $150 to $250, and, again, for the third offense, $350 for the third or subsequent offense.
Liability in Slip in Fall Cases
JC: So what happens if someone slips, falls, trips in the snow and is seriously injured? Who is responsible? Well you could imagine a scenario where it was walker beware. It was where the damages fell on the person who actually slipped. I mean, after all, you could argue that perhaps they could have been more careful while walking, perhaps they could have put on snow boots or slowed down their pace. Well, that's not the approach that New York City and other states have taken partly because the threat or the possibility of the threat of liability is a real driver for property managers and property owners to keep their sidewalks clear. In order to show liability, a plaintiff will need to demonstrate one of three things. One, they'll need to show that the condition was actually caused by the property owner not clearing the ice or snow in a timely manner. Now, this could also mean that they didn't clean it properly. For example, if the restaurant owner, instead of clearing the snow from the sidewalk poured hot water all over the snow which then resulted in an even slipperier surface, well that might be a clear example of how the property owner in that case caused the unsafe condition. The second way is where there's knowledge and a failure to act. So here knowledge, they knew there was a snowstorm, they knew there was freezing rain, and they failed to act in a timely manner. Here, a way you could possibly show that would be if the restaurant manager had sent an email to his staff saying who's gonna clear off the snow and then no one responded. And without a response, the snow was never actually cleared, someone slipped and fell. In this case, you can demonstrate that the individual knew that there was a snowstorm and that no action was taken despite the obligation of the business to clear the snow in that case. A third, which is slightly related, you might think of this one as constructive knowledge, which is that if they should have known about the ice or snow because a reasonable property manager would have discovered and corrected that hazardous condition. So are these easy cases? Slip and fall in the snow in New York, quick liability, quick reward? Well, they can actually be quite challenging for a reason that we previously mentioned, this can lead to a number of these cases just being thrown out, which is that the obligation to the landlord or to the restaurant manager is only applied after the storm, four hours after the snow stops falling or four hours after the freezing rain stops accumulating. So if you're walking down the street in a snowstorm, you slip and hurt yourself. Well, you may not be able to recover from the responsible party for that individual piece of sidewalk. So that's a bit about slip and fall law in New York City. I’m Joel Cohen. Thanks for watching TalksOnLaw.