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Cold and icy, snowy weather has pummeled much of the Eastern half of the United States this winter. But what happens if you fall on one of these icy sidewalks? Who is responsible for your injuries?

Chicagoan, Pamela Murphy-Hylton had to go to court to get an answer after she fell in her apartment complex. It was a cold winter’s morning and more than 20” of snow had fallen. The apartment management hired a snow-removal company to clear the sidewalks in the community.

After the snow was cleared and had mostly melted, Murphy-Hylton was on her way to work one morning and temperatures were below freezing. The melted snow had caused icy spots on the sidewalks, and Murphy-Hylton slipped and fell, injuring herself.

Four months and several surgeries later, Murphy-Hylton filed suit against the condo association and its management for negligence.  The suit alleged that “their negligent maintenance of the premises created an unnatural accumulation of ice, which caused her to fall.”

It took three long years for her suit to come to court, and it would not be good news for Murphy-Hylton. The trial court sided with the defendants and dismissed the case. The reason: the owners of the complex were protected by the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act. The law states that property owners are not required to remove snow and ice because the weather is too unpredictable.

While property owners are encouraged to clear their properties of snow and ice, they may not be held liable if you fall and are injured while on their property. But that did not stop Murphy-Hylton. She appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

She argued that her injury was not caused by snow and ice that had fallen, but by the negligence of the snow-removal company who was hired to clear the sidewalks in her complex. This time, the court agreed with her and allowed her lawsuit to proceed. Her case is currently in mediation.

Many municipalities and some states require property owners to remove snow and ice after a storm. The regulations vary widely.

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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