There have been many consequences to our recent harsher winters here in Texas. One such consequence is the accumulation of ice.
Unfortunately, as some unlucky locals discover every winter, some businesses do not clear their sidewalks and entrances, and people can fall down as a result. Are those business owners responsible for when customers are injured?
Natural accumulation of ice
In Texas, our premises liability law is different than other states as we distinguish between the natural and unnatural accumulation of ice. The natural accumulation of ice is one that accumulates because of the weather (snow or freezing rain).
Here, businesses are generally not liable for injuries caused by these natural conditions on their property. However, if that business owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous snow or ice accumulation and failed to remedy it, then the business owner could be held liable for their customer’s injuries that resulted from the snow or ice.
Unnatural accumulation of ice
Conversely, an unnatural snow or ice accumulation that is caused by something unnatural, like a leaking pipe or even a snow plowed walkway, a business owner is generally held liable for injuries that result. The only caveat is that the business owner needs to have created it, knew about it or should have known about it and did not remedy it or warn their customers about the dangerous condition.
What did you do?
Texas has a comparative fault law, so your actions in negligence cases are considered. This means that if you are found to be partly responsible for your injury (you wore inappropriate footwear, you were acting carelessly, etc.) your damages could be reduced. And, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you may not be able to recover anything from the business owner.
As winter continues to hit the broader DFW area, it is just a matter of time until the first victims of ice begin to fall. If, this year, that is you, know that you can likely hold the property owner liable through a premises liability lawsuit.