As any good condo administrator knows—either through common sense or painful experience - failing to clean up snow or ice promptly can result in injuries, acrimony, and expensive lawsuits. Any one of those is reason enough to get serious about snow and ice control around your HOA, but in the current economic climate, the threat of massive legal bills is very real, and very scary. Litigation has become far more prevalent than it used be, and insurance companies don't have the same protection that they used to have under state law. As a result, many are passing expensees and legal costs on to current clients.
So what’s a conscientious board to do when the snow flies and the sidewalk outside the building or complex is covered in a sheet of ice? Bone up, primarily. It’s your job—and knowing both what the law has to say about your responsibilities as a board as well as what products and technologies are out there to help you with you task are important pieces of the puzzle for multifamily communities.
It’s the Law
It's a commonly misheld notion that even if HOAs and unit owners make every attempt to keep sidewalks and walkways clear of snow and ice, they can still be held liable if they inadvertantly miss and someone slips and falls.
Actually, this isn't the case. Back in 2008, the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled on appeal in the case of Divis v. Woods Edge Homeowners Association. In short, that case revolved around plaintiff George Divis, who according to court records alleged that in January of 2006 he exited his condo "and slipped and fell on a patch of ice, suffering numerous injuries....The complaint also alleged that snow had fallen on the property in the days prior to plaintiff's fall and that as a result of the 'incomplete and improper' snow removal, several large patches of ice accumulated on the walkway, causing him to fall."
According to the official court ruling, the Illinois' Snow and Ice Removal Act "...provides defendants with an affirmative defense against plaintiff's claims of negligent or improper snow removal. Section 1 of the Act provides that "it is undesirable for any person" to be liable for damages due to his or her snow removal efforts, unless those acts amount to "clear wrongdoing. Section 2 of the Act provides that "any agent of or other person engaged by any such party" who removes or attempts to remove snow or ice from sidewalks shall not be liable for injuries caused by his or her removal efforts, unless those acts or omissions were willful or wanton. 745 ILCS 75/2 (West 2006)