Illinois Supreme Court Clarifies Homeowner’s Liability With Snow And Ice Removal

It’s winter in Chicago and we have already seen quite a bit of snow. Recently I’ve seen multiple news posts from the Tribune and DNA Info reminding home and business owners of the ordinance the city council passed last year increasing fines for failing to shovel their sidewalks. The updated ordinance increased fines for failure to clear sidewalks from range of $50-$500. It also increases the fine for obstructing the public way with shoveled or plowed snow from $25-$100 to $50-$500. The ordinance requires that daytime snowfall be cleared by 10 p.m. and overnight snowfall to be cleared by 10 a.m. Warnings will be issued before tickets are given. The word from the city hall law department  was that the increased fines are aimed at the “repeat, flagrant offender.”

This raises questions for many business and homeowners as to what their civil liability would be if they do comply and shovel their walk but someone still slips and injures themselves. In other words, what if the homeowner shoveled their walk from a natural accumulation of snow but that they were accused of doing a negligent job?

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on a recent case that clarified the 1979 Snow and Ice Removal Act,745 ILCS 75/1. In a recent case, Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., a suburban woman sued her condominium association and property management company for serious injuries from a slip and fall on ice.  In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Mary Jane Theis, The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s judgment and sent the case back to the trial court. “The Snow and Ice Removal Act provides immunity to residential property owners from claims of liability for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but it does not extend to immunize them from claims of liability for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from an otherwise negligent failure to maintain the premises.”

The Court has clarified what the law has always been. If a homeowner shovels her walk from a natural accumulation of snow or ice fall, they cannot be held liable in civil court for injuries resulting from said shoveling. (i.e. if the plaintiff sues that the homeowner did a negligent job of shoveling the walk). Where a homeowner can be liable is if the ice is a result of a leaky spout or runoff that is not a result of a natural accumulation. Those were the alleged facts in the above Murphy-Hylton case.

The lesson here is that if you are a homeowner in the city, you definitely want to remove snow and ice from your sidewalk in order to avoid a fine. But, civil liability will most likely be avoided if you attempt to clear the snow and someone slips and falls anyway. I am in know way advocating to home and business owners to lazily shovel their walks. I am just trying to report what our Supreme Court clarified in this recent court case along with the ramifications could be from the city if you avoid to remove the snow and ice.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago slip and fall or Chicago personal injury case, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.