If you are a resident of Missouri or Kansas, you should have an understanding of the premises liability within your state. One of the most common types of premises liability stems from falling on icy or snowy paths. Homeowner and property owners need to understand how to protect visitors from such accidents.
There is one way for property owners to avoid a lawsuit: the “reasonable time” rule. Property owners are given a reasonable amount of time to clear snow and ice from their property during and after a storm to protect visitors. A visitor falls into three categories under premises liability: trespasser, business invitee, and licensee.
How Do Visitors Differ?
The first type of visitor to a property under premises liability is that of the trespasser. A trespasser is someone who enters a property without invitation, and does not provide a benefit to the property owner. It can be difficult for a trespasser to win a premises liability lawsuit in a slip-and-fall case because the property owner does not owe the trespasser any legal obligation to keep the property’s condition safe.
A business invitee is defined as someone who has been invited onto a property for a business endeavor. For example, a business invitee is a customer who visits a store or the cable guy who comes to fix issues with a home television service.
A licensee is defined as someone who visits a home for a social event or is a family member who does not live in the home. A licensee is anyone who has been invited onto the property by the homeowner.
Duty of Care Owed to Visitors
Property owners, including homeowners, owe their visitors a duty of care. The duty of care is only owed to business invitees and licensees, not trespassers.
With a business invitee, the property owner must provide the person with a duty of reasonable care against known hazards on the property. For example, the owner of a commercial property must warn visitors of a spill or when there is snow or ice on the ground. The owner should also remove any snow or ice from the pathways in order to prevent accidents.
With a licensee, the property owner must provide the visitor with a duty of reasonable care against known hazards. For example, if a homeowner is hosting a party, he or she must warn guests of any hazards on the property such as a broken railing or a loose floorboard. Other hazards include snow or ice on the sidewalks or porch of the home.
Property Owners Must Remove in “Reasonable Time”
When it comes to snow and ice in Missouri or Kansas, property owners must remove these hazards from their sidewalks, driveways, or parking lots within a “reasonable amount of time.”
In many cases, the “Natural Accumulation” rule comes into play. The liability for a property owner is removed with this rule when natural accumulation of snow and ice is occurring during a storm. However, if the property owner alters the accumulation and a slip-and-fall accident occurs, he or she can be held liable.
Altering the snow or ice accumulation means that the property owner shoveled it or plowed it into a pile that blocks a driveway or sidewalk, which can lead to an accident or injury.
The reasonable amount of time to remove snow comes into play once the storm has subsided. If the snow or ice is left on the property for days after the storm and an injury occurs to a visitor, the property owner can be held liable because he or she did not remove the known hazards.
Should the reasonable amount of time pass, and an injury occurs, anyone walking on a sidewalk or pathway of a property can file a premises liability lawsuit. It is the responsibility of the property owner to clear sidewalks in front of their property, even a residence, so the public can use them safely.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident involving snowy or icy pathways, contact the experienced attorneys at Horn Law today to schedule a consultation. Call the office at 816-795-7500 or fill out our contact form on our website. We will be in touch within 24 hours to discuss your case.