SW Legal studies in Business

Private Property Owner Not Liable for Fall on Ice on Public Sidewalk
Description

Colorado appeals court held that while a city ordinance required property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks that bordered their property, it did not create a common law cause of action for a person who slipped and fell on ice on a sidewalk that had not been cleared.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Premises Liability; Public Sidewalk; Ordinance; Ice

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Burbach was injured when she slipped and fell on snow and ice that had accumulated on a public sidewalk adjacent to property owned by Canwest Investments. Burbach contended that Canwest violated a City of Denver ordinance that required property owners to clear sidewalks of snow and ice. Canwest argued that it had no duty under common law that required it to clear a public sidewalk, so it owed no duty of care to Burbach. The district court dismissed the suit. Burbach appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Under Colorado common law, an owner of property adjacent to a public sidewalk does not have a duty to pedestrians to keep the public sidewalk clear of naturally accumulated snow and ice. The city ordinance that requires a property owner to clear a public sidewalk adjacent to the owner's property is for the benefit of the community as a whole. Individual pedestrians are only indirect beneficiaries and there is no duty by the property owner to individuals. The ordinance does not make public sidewalks the property of adjacent property owners for purposes of the snow removal ordinance. The property owner may be cited by the city for failing to keep the sidewalk clear; but that is the extent of liability created by the ordinance.

Citation Burbach v. Canwest Investments, LLC, ---P.3d--- (2010 WL 4981897, Ct. App., Colo., 2010)

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