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New Haven property owners are liable for icy sidewalks

Snow may make for beautiful scenery around New Haven, but the icy sidewalks it leaves behind are never as welcome a view. Just about everyone dreads having to navigate ice-encrusted walkways, parking lots and other slippery winter surfaces, mentally bracing for what they know can happen in a split second—a slip and fall. Hopefully, it is only someone's ego that gets bruised, but injuries can occur, too.

According to a News 8 story, it is the responsibility of the property owner or business to keep sidewalks abutting their property clear of snow and ice. The city tries to help with these tasks, taking a neighborly approach to aid property owners in keeping up with shoveling by allowing city Public Works employees to pitch in.

They are setting the example for residents while asking them to do the same and lend a hand to seniors and others who are unable to keep up with these chores. Workers are also educating property owners about their responsibility to keep sidewalks clear in widths of at least 42 inches to accommodate wheelchairs. Another part of that education is the city’s ability to fine owners $250 for neglecting to clear sidewalks.

While common law leaves premises liability for public sidewalks with municipalities, the Connecticut Supreme Court says that responsibility can be shifted to property owners. The Court’s decision requires municipalities who wish to transfer this requirement to enact a law specifically for this purpose. The ruling also says that imposing a fine on property owners who neglect sidewalks is not enough by itself to make them liable. New Haven is one municipality, along with Norwalk and Bridgeport, that has enacted such a law.

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