Massachusetts has long held a very pro-defendant stance when it came to slip and fall accidents due to snow and ice accumulation on sidewalks, driveways, stairs, etc. Under the prior law, a landlord was only liable for injuries caused by slip and fall if the accumulation of snow and ice was “unnatural” or “man-made”. As you can imagine it was very difficult to prove that an accumulation of snow was “unnatural” and, therefore, it was next to impossible for those injured by slip and fall to collect for their injuries. This outdated law stems from an 1883 ruling and essentially encouraged landlords to neglect their property because they were immune from liability.
The law has been finally changed and landlords are now responsible for clearing natural and unnatural accumulations of snow from their property within a reasonable amount of time. In the ruling, Papadopoulos v. Target Corp, the Court held that the jury is now free to decide:
What snow and ice removal efforts are reasonable in light of the expense they impose on the landowner and the probability and seriousness of the foreseeable harm to others
The Court will now:
apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to ‘act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of avoiding the risk.’
This is an important ruling for anyone injured in a slip and fall caused by ice or snow accumulation in Massachusetts.