February 15, 2005
STATE LAW ON SNOW REMOVAL FROM SIDEWALKS
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked whether there are any state laws or regulations regarding property owners removing snow from sidewalks. You were specifically interested in learning whether there are any laws on the amount of time after a storm ends that a property owner has to clear his sidewalks or how wide a path he must clear.
There is relatively little state law on this subject. Under CGS Sec. 7-148 municipalities may adopt ordinances requiring property owners to remove snow and ice on their sidewalks and establish penalties for failing to do so. In addition, under CGS Sec. 7-163a, municipalities may adopt ordinances transferring their liability for damages associated with snow and ice on sidewalks to the abutting property owner. It appears that many municipalities have adopted one or both types of ordinances. However, in the absence of such ordinances, a homeowner is ordinarily not responsible for keeping the sidewalk in front of his house in reasonably safe condition for public travel, although he may be sued, he creates a nuisance Tenney v. Pleasant Real Estate, 136 Conn. 325 (1949).
Neither the statutes or regulations specify how soon after the snow stops a homeowner must clear his sidewalk. However, there are several court cases that address the issue with regard to municipalities that have not transferred snow shoveling responsibilities and associated liability to property owners. For example, in Cusick v. City of New Haven, 148 Conn. 548 (1961), the state Supreme Court found that the city was not liable when a pedestrian fell at 6:45 in the morning following a nighttime ice storm, because it did not have enough time to become aware of the dangerous condition and remedy it. To be liable, the municipality or individual responsible for maintaining the sidewalk must either know that there is a hazardous condition or be in a position where it or he ought to have known. For example, in Schroeder v. City of Hartford 104 Conn. 334 (1926), the fact that sidewalks had been icy for five days was sufficient to give the city adequate notice of the hazardous conditions.
State law also does not prescribe how wide a path a homeowner must clear on his sidewalk. However, before the law was amended to allow municipalities to transfer liability for snow and ice accidents to property owners, the courts have found that the municipalities had to take reasonable care to make sure that sidewalks are reasonably safe. Under CGS Sec. 7-163a, if a municipality transfers liability to the property owners, they have the same duty of care as the municipality previously had.