Iowa saw it's first snowfall for the 2014-2015 Winter season in November, and there are at least four months of potential winter weather ahead. Snow and ice make everything more difficult and prompt people to take precautions, especially when it comes to driving in wintery weather, but it is always best to be over prepared. People often don't take as many precautions as they could when it comes to walking on ice and snow, sometimes mistaking ice for slick areas and causing them to fall. Ice melt and salt help to rid walkways of the ice that accumulates, but it must be spread on the area whenever there is ice. Landlords of apartments and property managers of commercial buildings have a duty to reasonably maintain their property, including clearing the public walkways of ice and snow. This means they should be spreading the proper chemicals to melt the ice and snow after a storm to prevent people from falling. However, the key is that the landlord's actions must only be "reasonable" - this means that they need not be standing outside during a storm constantly laying down salt. They are legally allowed to wait until a storm is over, and for a reasonable time thereafter, to remove ice and snow. Under the "continuing storm doctrine" followed by Iowa courts, a business owner (legally, the "inviter" to the customer or "invitee") is not liable to a customer/tenant who falls on their property during a storm. The courts follow the basic idea that it is not "reasonable" to expect the business owner to be out during a storm, constantly ensuring all walkways are clear of snow and ice. This gives business owners some leeway to safely get to the property after the storm is over and remove the snow and ice. If, however, the snow and ice still remains well after a storm is over and a customer/tenant slips, falls, and is injured, the owner may well be liable for those injuries. Call us today if you have questions about a winter weather slip and fall in Iowa.
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