When a nor’easter blows, when do you have to remove the ice and snow?
W
e all know that New England winters can be unpredictable. Sometimes it snows for hours, sometimes for minutes, sometimes the snow is just a dusting, sometimes it comes in feet, and sometimes it comes in the form of ice. No matter how much snow or ice comes, or for how long, business owners want to know what exactly do they need to do to protect themselves from customers who may slip and fall due to accumulated ice or snow. Said differently, when do business owners have to remove ice and snow so they don’t get sued by customers who slip and fall?

The so-called Krause Rule adopted by Connecticut Supreme Court in 1989 is that business owners may await the end of a storm and a reasonable time thereafter before removing ice and snow from outside walks and steps. The rationale for this rule is that it is impractical and inexpedient to require snow removal efforts during a storm. After all, how many of us have finished shoveling our driveways during a storm, only to look back and see another couple of inches has fallen on the shoveled areas.

Despite the Krause Rule, we often see businesses plowing, shoveling, sanding, and salting their properties during a storm. That makes sense, because they want customers to be able to park cars and to access the business. However, there is another Connecticut legal principle that says if you undertake to do something, you have an obligation not to do it negligently. So, once a business owner starts snow and ice removal efforts, whether during a storm or after, then the Krause Rule no longer applies. In that case the general legal principal applies, and the business owner has to make the premises reasonably safe for the reasonably anticipated use of the property.

If you are a business owner that has little customer traffic, then you may want to wait till the end of a storm to begin cleanup. But, if you are a high traffic business where the practicalities of your business require you to start cleanup during a storm, be aware that you have obligation to make the premises reasonably safe.