Most people know that after a snowfall, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways must be shoveled. The failure to timely remove a dangerous condition such as snow or ice from a walkway may result in liability. What many people do not realize is that it is dangerous to make mounds of snow on or next to such surfaces due to the risks of the snow melting and re-freezing as ice. In New York, as in most places, once a person in possession of property undertakes to remove snow and ice, he or she must do so with reasonable care, for he will be liable if the property was made more hazardous by his actions. Over sixty years ago the New York Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment in favor of a pedestrian who slipped and fell on ice that had formed from a snow pile that melted and re-froze. Zahn v City of New York, 299 N.Y. 581 (1949). In that case, a pedestrian was walking on the sidewalk in February, early in the evening. There was evidence that the visibility at the time was poor, and that snow had been piled on a portion of the sidewalk from prior snowfalls. Further, the snow had thawed, and re-froze, forming black ice on which plaintiff fell. More recently, the New York Court of Appeals reiterated the above stated rule, holding that it was foreseeable that black ice would form as soon as the temperature shifted. San Marco v Village/Town of Mount Kisco, 16 N.Y.3d 111, 919 N.Y.S.2d 459 (2010). In San Marco, the Municipality piled snow in a parking lot and salted the parking lot. It was undisputed that in the interim between the Village's last inspection and salting of the lot early on Friday morning and plaintiff’s fall on Saturday morning, the air temperature had risen above freezing for approximately 19 hours and then dropped. The court held that
“...a pile of plowed snow in a parking lot is a cost-saving, pragmatic solution to the problem of an accumulation of snow that presents the foreseeable, indeed known, risk of melting and refreezing.Thus, a pedestrian who slips and falls on ice can recover for injuries where the ice on which the injured pedestrian slipped and fell on was formed when piles of snow created during a prior snowstorm melted and refroze, or where it could reasonably be inferred that the ice on which pedestrian slipped was the residue of snow removal efforts. If you or someone you know has slipped and fallen on ice and has suffered injuries, you should contact an experiences personal injury attorney. The question of who shoveled the snow into piles, and whether the activity had created a more hazardous condition than would have obtained had the snow been left untouched, are often factual issues to be resolved by a jury. Evidence as to who undertook snow removal efforts and what was done can be determined by various means prior to a trial. A lawyer experienced in handling snow and ice case will be able to undertake a proper investigation to protect your rights. Such an investigation may include obtaining weather reports to determine the last snowfall and temperature fluctuations, interviewing witnesses, taking pictures, and hiring experts. For a free consultation contact Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463).