It is December in Ohio, and naturally the snow is starting to fall. Many homeowners, myself included, are thinking to themselves “do I really need to shovel the sidewalk”? As you can imagine, this issue has been litigated and surprisingly the Supreme Court of Ohio has dealt with this issue head on.
In Brinkman v. Ross, 1993-Ohio-72, (1993) the Court held “that a homeowner has no common-law duty to remove or make less hazardous a natural accumulation of ice and snow on private sidewalks or walkways on the homeowner's premises, or to warn those who enter upon the premises of the inherent dangers presented by natural accumulations of ice and snow.”
There is actually an impetus here not to shovel- note the use of the term “natural accumulation.” Arguably, if you shovel you might create an unnatural accumulation that could open you up to a negligence claim. In plain English, if you don’t shovel at all and someone falls on your property, you are probably not going to be found negligent for the fall. However, in the court of public opinion, your neighbors are probably going to think you're a jerk.
There is a caveat here- depending on where you live, your city might have an ordinance requiring you to shovel and if you don’t, then you might get a fine. You’ve got to love the law.
This information is intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.
Attorney Jesse Bowman