Ice and Snow Injuries and the Partial Immunity of Land Owners
The Illinois Supreme Court has recently ruled on a case that could shed some light on the duties and responsibilities of landowners during this frigid weather and the recent snowfall. The case, Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc., distinguishes the duties of landlords for snow and ice removal. Historically, landowners have no duty to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice. However, landowners do owe a duty of reasonable care to prevent unnatural accumulations of ice and snow on their premises where they have actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.
Normally, plaintiffs had brought these negligence claims under two different theories. The first being when there was a defective condition of the property or negligent maintenance of that property, and the second being when the landowner voluntarily undertook efforts to remove snow or ice and due to this effort an injury occurred. However, being that one could be sued for taking action and causing an injury, the fear of litigation led many landowners and landlords to refrain from attempting to remove snow or ice from their property. This inactivity led to the Snow and Ice Removal Act of 1979.