Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Increased liability for snow and ice?

The Supreme Judicial Court yesterday announced a new rule of liability for property owners when it comes to snow and ice. In Papadopoulos v Target Corporation, the plaintiff slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot outside the defendant's store at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers. The trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, ruling as a matter of law that the offending ice was a "natural" accumulation for which the defendant was not responsible. In the decision announced yesterday, the SJC abolished the "natural versus unnatural accumulation of snow and ice" distinction that had been the law in the Commonwealth for more than a century in favor of a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. (Although I haven't been involved in any private legal matters for 15 years, I am relieved that the old rule was jettisoned - I've never been able to understand the natural v unnatural distinction).

It will take another wave of lawsuits to clarify this new rule, but in the meantime, I expect litigation regarding snow and ice to increase. Just one more reason why homeowners should get down here to the registry and get a homestead recorded.

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