Generally, landlords of large apartment complexes will be liable for unreasonable snow/ice conditions of common areas.
Under Pennsylvania negligence law, individuals injured in snow/ice fall accidents are generally required to prove the following:
1. the snow/ice had accumulated in such a manner that it constituted an unreasonable danger;
2. the property owner had notice of the existence of the danger; and
3. the accumulation of snow and ice caused the fall accident.
Below are two common situations involving landlord liability for snow/ice fall accidents.
Slip and Fall on an Icy Sidewalk
A tenant or guest of a tenant is walking to an apartment building and slips on snow/ice on the sidewalk. Snow had fallen several days prior, and the landlord hired a snow/ice removal contractor who did not complete snow/ice removal on this particular area, since it was located near the back of the large apartment complex. The sidewalk in front of this particular apartment building was simply overlooked. The landlord was aware that the area needed to be shoveled and salted, and had contacted the contractor to return and complete the job. However, the contractor had not returned and the sidewalk remained covered in snow and ice.
Legal analysis: In this situation, the landlord would be liable for negligence in failing to properly remove snow/ice from high traffic areas like sidewalks. Failing to perform snow/ice removal on the sidewalk in a public place usually constitutes negligence, and there is evidence that the landlord knew about the problem before the accident happened. In addition, landlords of large commercial properties like large apartment complexes often contract out snow/ice removal to outside companies. Therefore, under Pennsylvania fall down accident law, both the landlord and the contractor may be liable.
Slip and Fall on an Ice Patch in a Parking Lot
A tenant is walking to her car and slips on a patch of ice in the parking lot several days after a snow storm. The landlord had plowed the parking lot, but due to temperature variations in the days following the snow storm, a large patch of ice developed after a warm day and particularly cold night. The tenant slipped on this patch of ice on her way to work in the morning; the patch of ice had developed over the course of the night. Prior to the accident, after previous snow storms, other tenants complained of the problem. The dangerous condition existed in this particular area of the parking lot because the snow plow always followed the same pattern through the parking lot, leaving a large snow mound in the same area. The landlord failed to provide warnings to tenants and also failed to salt the area.
Legal analysis: Here, the landlord is likely to be found liable for negligence in failing to salt an isolated patch of ice. In addition, in this scenario, there is sufficient evidence that the landlord had notice of the problem, since other tenants previously complained of the problem. However, even if there were no prior complaints about the problem, there is a strong argument that the landlord should have known about the problem, considering that the snow plow tended to leave a snow mound in the same area of the parking lot. Therefore, the tenant in this example would have a viable case against her landlord.
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If you were injured in a snow/ice accident at an apartment complex and would like to discuss your case with one of our lawyers, please call Click To Call for a free consultation.
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