Winter has arrived in Ohio, and with it comes numerous slips and falls by pedestrians attempting to negotiate snow- and ice-covered sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. But will a court hold you liable for an injured pedestrian’s damages if (s)he falls on your unshoveled property?
In general, the answer to that question is “no.” This is because Ohio follows the Natural Accumulation Rule, which says that “an owner of land ordinarily owes no duty to business invitees to remove natural accumulations of ice and snow from the walkways on the premises or to warn the invitee of the dangers associated therewith.”
The above quote makes it sound like the Natural Accumulation Rule applies only to commercial property owners, but in fact, it applies to homeowners as well. In 1993, the Ohio Supreme Court held that people walk at their own risk “when Mother Nature calls,” and that “Ohio homeowners are not obligated to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice.”
Cleveland city ordinances
Just because you likely will not have to pay damages if an injured pedestrian sues you, however, does not mean that you can blithely ignore the snow and ice that Mother Nature dumps on your property. Cleveland City Ordinance CCO 507.13 makes it illegal for you not to remove snow and ice from your sidewalk. Per this ordinance, you must remove it by 9:00 a.m.
In addition, CCO 411.02 requires you to put any snow you shovel on your own property, not on your neighbor’s property or in the street. If the Department of Public Service has to come out and remove the snow, you could have to pay the expenses therefor per CCO 507.13.
Under CCO 507.99, failure to remove your snow and ice could subject you to a fine for each day it remains on your property. However, if you absolutely cannot remove it for whatever reason, you must instead treat your sidewalk with a sufficient amount of salt, sand or other substance to make your sidewalk reasonably safe for pedestrians to walk on.