At Lieberman Ryan & Forrest, LLC, in New Jersey, we represent many people who suffer slip-and-fall injuries. Since Old Man Winter seemingly refuses to release his grip on New Jersey this year, your risk of falling on icy or snow-packed sidewalks and parking lots will remain high well into what used to be spring. Should your slip and fall result in injuries, you have the right to sue the negligent property owner whose lack of snow and ice removal caused them.
It may surprise you to learn, however, that just because property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care in safely maintaining their sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, this does not mean that they must remove snow and/or ice under all circumstances. Why? Because as FindLaw explains, New Jersey has a storm in progress doctrine.
Meaning of “storm in progress”
Under this doctrine, a property owner need not begin to remove snow and/or ice from his or her property until after the winter storm ceases. This applies not only to blizzards, but also to any other type of bad weather that continues over a period of time. Additionally, the storm need not go full force the entire time. It can lessen and worsen, or it can even stop for a relatively short period before beginning again. Furthermore, it can switch the form of precipitation it produces, such as going from sleet to a wintery mix to snow and back again. Unfortunately for you and other slip-and-fall victims, “storm in progress” has no precise meaning. It depends on how long the stretch of inclement weather lasts.
Reasonable time to clean up
Just as a storm in progress itself has no clear meaning, neither does the “reasonable” amount of time afterward during which the property owner must clear his or her property of snow and/or ice accumulation. What one property owner thinks of as reasonable, another property owner may not. (S)he may wait until the entire storm abates before starting to clean off his or her property.
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