Does the landlord have a duty to remove ice and snow from the apartment grounds?
A. It depends.
If the landlord has promised in the rental agreement to do so, then yes the landlord can be sued if he fails
to live up to his promises. Otherwise, the general rule in Ohio, with certain exceptions, is that a landowner
or occupier has no duty to a business invitee to remove natural accumulations of ice and snow. LaCourse v.
Fleitz (1986), 28 Ohio St. 3d 209, 28 OBR 294, 503 N.E. 2d 159; Lopatkovich v. Tiffin (1986), 28 Ohio St. 3d
204, 28 OBR 290, 503 N.E. 2d 154; Jeswald v. Hutt (1968), 15 Ohio St. 2d 224, 44 O.O. 2d 196, 239 N.E. 2d 37;
Sidle v. Humphrey (1968), 13 Ohio St. 2d 45, 42 O.O. 2d 96, 233 N.E. 2d 589; Debie v. Cochran Pharmacy-Berwick,
Inc. (1967), 11 Ohio St. 2d 38, 40 O.O. 2d 52, 227 N.E. 2d 603.
However, if a landlord has undertaken a duty to remove ice and
snow, the landowner or occupier has a duty to use ordinary care not to create a hazard or to aggravate an existing
hazard. Porter v. Miller (1983), 13 Ohio App. 3d 93, 13 OBR 110, 468 N.E. 2d 134; Kinkey v. Jewish Hospital Assn.
(1968), 16 Ohio App. 2d 93, 45 O.O. 2d 267, 242 N.E. 2d 352. The Supreme Court in Lopatkovich, supra, while
applying the general no-duty rule, said "a different matter arises when an abutting owner or occupier is actively
negligent in permitting and/or creating a dangerous or unnatural accumulation of snow and ice." Id. at 207, 28 OBR
at 293, 503 N.E. 2d at 157. This means that anyone that undertakes to remove snow, even the tenant, can be liable
for a slip and fall if they have done so negligently, or in a way that makes the area more treacherous than it had
been without the efforts at snow removal.
In the case of Smith v. Fraternal Order of Eagles (1987), 39 Ohio App. 3d 97; 529 N.E.2d 477, just after noon on
December 24, 1985, plaintiff, Linda Smith, and Donald Edman entered the parking lot of the Fraternal Order of
Eagles ("Eagles Club"), a private club located on Arlington Road in Akron. Because of a snow fall, the lot had
been plowed. Smith and Edman walked up an incline to reach the sidewalk which passed directly in front of the
building. After spending about an hour in the club, Smith and Edman took the same route back to their car.
On her way down the incline, Smith slipped and fell and was injured. Smith brought suit alleging that the
Eagles Club was negligent in not providing a safe means of egress from the parking lot, and in maintaining a
nuisance (the incline). After Smith presented her case, the trial court granted the Eagles Club's motion for
a directed verdict. Smith appealed.
The Court found that there was uncontroverted evidence before the jury that the plowing of the snow created a
more treacherous condition than before. It was for the jury to determine if this was true and, if so, did it
result from the negligence of the defendant.
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