– from Betty B. in Erin, WI
My neighbor hasn’t cleared the snow from his sidewalk in months. I’m afraid to walk my dog that way because it’s so dangerous, and I’ve seen lots of people slip. If I fall while walking on his sidewalk, can I sue?
Many Wisconsin cities will issues fines to homeowners who don’t keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice. However, liability for a slip and fall often rests with the city government.
It has long been held that property owners are not liable for snow and ice accumulations resulting from natural causes. The liability rests with the municipality, and under Wisconsin law, municipalities are immune from personal injury lawsuits unless the snow or ice has been there for three weeks or more.
That said, the courts have made a distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice. Unnatural snow and ice can be caused by improper drainage or other man-made interventions, and in these cases, immunity does not apply.
Premises liability law in Wisconsin is complicated, and different rules apply for homeowners and businesses. Give us a call or complete the short form, and we can look into your situation more thoroughly. “
Jeff Hughes, J.D.