Are Icy Streets "Litigation Lanes"?

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It doesn't take a foot of snow to cause problems for motorists or pedestrians. Even a dusting can freeze when the temperature falls, leading to icy and slippery conditions.

"There's some burden, of course, put on the person who's on the property, to watch what they're doing, wear safe clothing and shoes, and avoid situations where they could be hurt," says Parkersburg attorney George Cosenza, "and that's where the law is not going to put the burden entirely on the property owner or the landlord."

While the Mid-Ohio Valley is a diverse area, liability from winter accidents can vary greatly between West Virginia and Ohio.

"The State of Ohio basically says natural accumulations of snow and ice will not cause a business owner or landlord to be liable if someone slips and falls, Cosenza tells us. "In West Virginia, we generally have the same thing, although it's not such a stringent standard for someone coming on the property."

One way a business owner or landlord can be liable, is in what Cosenza calls an "unnatural event". One example is snow, which accumulates on a roof or canopy and then melts onto the ground, causing people to slip and fall when it freezes.

Cosenza says municipalities can be immune from lawsuits, unless it's determined a dangerous situation is created by the elements.

A Columbus man avoided a potentially dangerous situation Monday when while shoveling a city sidewalk he was struck not once, but twice, by snow left behind by city plows.

"Sometimes, with the truck noise and everything around you, you really don't pay attention to someone at the bottom of their driveway," Ashley Parker of the city's transportation division told WCMH-TV in Columbus. "Not close to the street, but right there by the sidewalk."

Still, in this type of weather, for both pedestrians and property owners, the advice is: let's be careful out there.