As anywhere from 4 to 10 inches of snow and ice accumulate today, city dwellers face the question: Do I let pedestrians deal on their own with Mother Nature, or do I shovel the sidewalk and risk a lawsuit?
That question always arises because there are court cases in which someone made an attempt to clear the ice and snow, only to be sued.
So we asked a lawyer. Not any lawyer, but one prominent in the Akron area for personal injury cases.
That’s Adam Van Ho, and he says he shovels his sidewalk and he thinks you should, too.
Van Ho said the urban legend that excuses not shoveling stems from the concept that “once you changed the earth from the way God intended it to be, that it kind of becomes your responsibility. … Once it is, it becomes a continuing duty to make sure it’s cleared.” In some cases, the formation of ice is more likely after shoveling than if you did nothing.
Still, he suggests you shovel and shovel some more.
For example, he is pursuing a case in which a school shoveled for its students but employees didn’t continue to keep the walk clear for an older person who came by and fell. It’s about common sense and not being negligent.
Van Ho also has a problem with people who know ice is formed from leaking water spouts or other sources but they do nothing about it.
Don’t worry if you shovel this morning and then go to work while the snow keeps coming down. Come back for more shoveling in the evening; a judge or jury is likely to approve.
“I think at that point it would kick into some common sense,” he said. “You can’t be there 24 hours. They are still going to sue, don’t get me wrong, but I think your insurance company is going to have a lot better defense.”
For most people, homeowners’ insurance covers a lawsuit. And when the insurance company prepares your defense, it will help if you can show that you tried to comply with Akron’s ordinance requiring property owners to clear the walks.
So, does Van Ho resent people who dodge shoveling by citing this legality?
“As somebody who walks his dog every night, yes,” he said. “As a lawyer, I don’t like the logic because I think it would be harder for me to go into court and defend somebody who brings that attitude in the court … because I think most jurors and most judges and attorneys go out and shovel their own sidewalks for their neighbors.”
So he has a plan for today:
“I’ll be out there early in the morning. I’ll probably be out there at night again.”
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or email@example.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.