In Bridgeport, snow and ice are a part of every winter. With each storm comes the potential for a person to slip and fall on ice or snow. Do you know your rights and responsibilities when snow accumulates in front of your home or business? Whose job it is to clear the area? Property owners' or the city of Bridgeport? OK, enough questions. Time for some answers. Get out your snow boots, shovel and ice pick and let's learn about Bridgeport sidewalk clearing laws.
Naturally, the first place to look to is Connecticut state law. And, you won't find much help there. There is relatively little state law on the subject of snow removal from sidewalks in cities and towns. The state government of Connecticut has enacted legislation to leave such matters as snow removal to the individual municipal governments within the state.
Bridgeport Municipal Ordinance
OK, so now what? Who should I call? Who should I turn to? Ah, do not fret. The answer lies buried within the walls of the Bridgeport city government.
Check out Bridgeport Municipal Code 12.16.160. It's an ordinance requiring property owners to remove snow and ice on their sidewalks and establishes penalties for failure to comply. The city even adopted a law that says you, as a home or business owner, are liable for damages associated with snow and ice on sidewalks. Plain English? If you've been hurt because someone didn't remove snow or ice in front of their property, you may be able to recover for your injuries.
The Department of Public Works is responsible for clearing snow and ice on more than 276 miles of City-maintained roads in Bridgeport.
Whose responsibility is it to shovel the snow?
It depends who has "charge of the building." If you are a homeowner, that's easy. You do! It's your home, after all. However, if you are a tenant, read your lease. If it says you are responsible for the home or building, then you may be on the hook for any fines or lawsuits that can arise from not following the ordinance. If the lease doesn't say, the owner generally has the responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear.
What is a landowner's actual duty?
The duty of a landowner or tenant is to use reasonable care to keep the sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition from snow and ice. In order to recover for injuries sustained in a slip and fall on a sidewalk because of snow and ice, a person must prove that the landowner or tenant knew or should have known of the conditions. This can happen when the snow and icy conditions were present for a sufficient length of time, so that the landowner should have discovered them using reasonable care to inspect the sidewalk.
How much snow must be cleared to comply with the ordinance?
The law doesn't provide an answer, sadly. The ordinance doesn't address how wide of a path a homeowner or tenant must clear on his sidewalk. It just notes that they must clear the area abutting their property. Some common-sense should probably come into play here, and an owner should make sure it's enough clearance someone to traverse safely along the sidewalk.
How much time does an owner have to clear the snow from sidewalks?
Again, the ordinance doesn't say. The duty to use reasonable care takes into account a variety of conditions and circumstances created by the elements of winter. A homeowner or tenant may await the end of a storm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing ice and snow from the sidewalk. Courts have found that waiting five days after a storm to clear the ice and snow is too long, for example. Thus, an owner could be liable if someone is injured after that long.
Unfortunately, if you suffered a fall due to improperly maintained sidewalks, it may be difficult to know how long the snow or ice was around beforehand. Nevertheless, you'll generally have to establish when the specific icy condition was created and how much time elapsed between then and your fall. A meteorological report may be useful to establish when a storm or conditions originated and ended, for these purposes. On the flip side, a homeowner may be able to use a report to show that a sudden storm was the cause of the conditions.
As you can see from the information above, these cases are very fact-specific. If you are a property owner, always remember, it's your job to clear snow on the sidewalk in front of your Bridgeport home or business. Here are some safety tips for snow shoveling. If you've been injured or are a landowner, you may wish to talk to a Bridgeport personal injury lawyer or your local legal aid provider.
Contact a qualified attorney.