Dear Sean & Andy: As a business, am I liable for the the sidewalk outside of my business?
04/03/2017 09:35 AM
All good discussions of the law start and end with “maybe” or “it depends” or some other equivocator because every situation is fact specific.
Let me set the facts for this discussion;
First, as the business owner, you did nothing to create a hazard. No digging, spraying water or piling nail studded 2x4s on the sidewalk.
Second, there is not a known hazard such as a hole or displaced slab that you have failed to mark with a caution cone or tape and alerted the city.
These facts must be true because if you do something to create a hazard or fail to warn of a known hazard, your insurance company will have to pay and then you will learn the new premium schedule.
Ordinary and obvious wear and tear and general unevenness of the sidewalk is not the responsibility of the shop owner. Likewise rain, snow and ice create known adverse conditions that are not the responsibility of the shopkeeper. Keeping the sidewalk free of snow and ice is a good idea because it is good for business and failure to remove or remediate a known slippery condition a day or two after the weather event could put you solidly in that grey area of liability that you want to avoid.
The City, good as they are, can not be everywhere all the time. You do have a responsibility to alert the City of problems so that they can be repaired timely.
Failure to remediate or warn of a known hazard is what we lawyers refer to as negligence, and that is the basis of all liability.
Ogorman and Sandroni, P.C.