Ice, Snow and Premises Liability in Tennessee

Tennesseans are clearing the grocery stores of bread, milk and other essentials as the National Weather Service informs us that snow will cover the state.

The threat of bad weather gives us the opportunity to review the law of Tennessee concerning the liability of possessors of land concerning ice and snow.  Here is a nice summary of that law from Bowman v. State:

 

Dangerous conditions caused by the natural accumulation of snow and ice are considered to be among the ‘normal hazards of life.’  Grizzell v. Foxx, 48 Tenn.App. 462, 467, 348 S.W.2d 815, 817 (1960) (citing Goodman v. Corn Exchange Nat’l Bank & Trust, 331 Pa. 587, 200 A. 642, 643 (1938)). Accordingly, the courts employ the same principles to determine the scope of a property owner’s duty with regard to natural accumulations of snow and ice that they use to establish the property owner’s duty with regard to other dangerous conditions.

Property owners cannot be held liable for failing to remove natural accumulations of snow or ice when they had no notice of the condition. Forecasts of snow or ice do not, by themselves, constitute actual or constructive notice of dangerous conditions requiring a property owner to begin taking steps either to prevent or to remove accumulations of ice or snow. Fisher v. HBS Mgmt., Inc., 220 Ga.App. 752, 469 S.E.2d 885, 886 (1996); Kenison v. Madison Indus., 597 So.2d 139, 143 (La. Ct.App.1992). Thus, no case has ever imposed a duty on property owners to constantly monitor weather forecasts or to take steps to prevent or forestall possible accumulations of snow or ice.

By the same token, property owners are not required to keep their premises free of natural accumulations of snow and ice at all times. Howard v. FMS, Inc., No. 01A01-9709-CV-00479, 1998 WL 195960, at *4 (Tenn.Ct.App. Apr.24, 1998) (No Tenn. R.App. P. 11 application filed);Grizzell v. Foxx, 48 Tenn. App. at 467, 348 S.W.2d at 817. Instead, they are expected to take reasonable steps to remove snow and ice within a reasonable time after it has formed or accumulated. Grizzell v. Foxx, 48 Tenn.App. at 468, 348 S.W.2d at 817. When called upon to consider whether a property owner’s efforts to remove snow and ice were reasonable, the court should consider, among other things, (1) the length of time the accumulation has been present, (2) the amount of the accumulation, (3) whether the accumulation could be, as a practical matter, removed, (4) the cost of removal, and (5) the foreseeability of injury. Simmons v. Russell, No. 01A01-9709-CV-00467, 1998 WL 251751, at * 3 (Tenn.Ct. App. May 20, 1998) (No Tenn. R.App. P. 11 application filed); Mumford v. Thomas, 603 S.W.2d 154, 156 (Tenn.Ct.App.1980).

 

206 S.W.3d 347 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006).

 

 

 


 

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