Operating a brick and mortar business in the winter comes with its fair share of risks. Mitigate those risks by staying on top of snow and ice removal.
Utah courts have held that "commercial property owners are not insurers of the safety of those who come upon their property, even though they are business invitees." Martin v. Safeway Stores Inc., 565 P.2d 1139, 1140 (Utah 1977) (the liability of a business is created only when the condition complained of has existed for a long enough time that the owner should have known about it and corrected it, or has had actual knowledge of the condition complained of). However, tenants are liable "for any dangerous condition on the premises which he [or she] creates or permits to come into existence after he [or she] has taken possession.” Dahlstrom v. Nass, 2005 UT App 433, ¶ 10, 126 P.3d 773, 774 (emphasis added) (citing Stephenson v. Warner, 581 P.2d 567, 568–69 (Utah 1978).
One such dangerous condition that inevitably "comes into existence" this time of year is ice. Ice on walkways (or, in attorney jargon, paths of ingress and egress) often creates a slippery surface area. The ice alone is dangerous enough, but when the slightest bit of snow falls on the ice, the ice- and snow-covered walkway becomes slicker than an ice rink and substantially more dangerous. Patrons who slip and fall on the walkways can receive serious injuries (or death).
An equally dangerous condition this time of year is ice climbing off the edges of roofs. Icicles could fall at any time, and pose a serious threat of bodily injury. Icicles should be cleared away promptly—and carefully. The United States Department of Labor reports that there have been 16 fatalities in the last ten years from individuals clearing snow and ice from roofs.
So, if you are a business with a physical location, be sure to keep your walkways dry and your roofs clear. Investment in a snow shovel and a few bags of salt will be much less than the later cost of defense attorneys in your subsequent personal injury negligence case.