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Snow Problem
by Ron Davis

The victim of a slip-and-fall accident that occurred at a snow-covered Chicago-area shopping center has apparently run out of people to blame.

That’s after the Illinois courts recently decided that neither the shopping center’s property manager nor the center’s snow-removal contractor was at fault for the accident.

The slip-and-fall incident involved an employee of one of the center’s tenants—a Walgreen drug store. On a mid-winter day, following a typical snowfall in Chicago, she slipped on ice as she was walking just outside the Walgreen store. As a result of her fall, she suffered a serious injury.

She sued Walgreen, the shopping center’s owners, the shopping center’s property manager, and the snow-removal contractor, claiming that they were all negligent in failing to remove the snow from the property, thus creating a hazardous condition for pedestrians.

Walgreen and the shopping center's owners subsequently settled with the accident victim under undisclosed terms. And later the courts dismissed the charges against the property manager and the snow-removal contractor. The victim appealed, claiming that both the manager and the contractor failed in their responsibility to remove the ice and snow at the shopping center.

In response, the property manager and contractor argued that they owed no duty to the public to remove natural accumulations of ice and snow from the shopping center. And, they added, the ice or snow that caused the woman’s fall was a natural accumulation.

Under Illinois law, a landowner may be liable for a slip-and-fall accident on snow or ice “only if the accumulation was caused or aggravated by him.” In other words, a landowner’s voluntary undertaking to remove snow and ice may subject him to liability only if the removal is performed negligently.

An Illinois appellate court ruled that the property manager in this case did not assume a contractual obligation to remove snow or ice, but merely retained the contractor on behalf of the shopping center’s owners.

As for the snow-removal contractor, the court also upheld the lower-court decision, explaining, “Because there was no evidence that the snow and ice upon which the victim slipped unnaturally accumulated due to the contractor’s conduct, the contractor cannot be liable to the victim.” (McBride v. Taxman Corp., 765 N.E.2d 51 [Ill.App. 1 Dist. 2002])

Decision: February 2002
Published: May 2002



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