Laws requiring homeowners to clear snow from sidewalks rarely prosecuted

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (12/14/2017) - With the 6 to 8 inches of snow that fell Wednesday, shovels and snow blowers were working overtime a day later.

Many people were clearing their driveways and sidewalks to make it easier to get around. Some homeowners were clearing their sidewalks because they face legal repercussions if they don't.

However, a local attorney said laws requiring homeowners to clear snow from their sidewalks rarely result in fines and lawsuits over snow-covered sidewalks rarely result in a financial judgment.

"In terms of government penalties, no. In terms of whether or not a civil claim can be filed, they are restricted,” said Bruce Trogan of the Trogan and Trogan law firm.

Swartz Creek, like some other municipalities, has an ordinance saying public sidewalks need to have the snow removed within 48 hours. Failure to comply can result in a $50 fine.

Even if the snow is not removed and someone falls, they would have a hard time winning any lawsuit. Trogan said a Michigan Supreme Court case from 2001 made winning compensation extremely difficult.

"If the conditions are outside are such that a person could reasonably anticipate that it may be slippery, then our courts have said that if that person slips and falls then they don't have a case because the property owner has no duty to protect them from that danger,” he said.

Trogan said around 90 percent of winter slip and fall cases end up getting dismissed in court.

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