One of the advantages/disadvantages of my job as a Central New York and Syracuse personal injury lawyer is that I am acutely aware of all the dangers lurking out there. The “advantage” is that I avoid some dangers most people don’t even think about. The “disadvantage” is that I worry too much! For example, when the weather is getting warmer, and I see icicles, I am careful to avoid walking under them. If I have to pass under them, I do so quickly, and I keep an eye on them.
With the weather freezing and then warming in Central New York, icicles can be dangerous. The warming weather can loosen them. They can then fall like heavy spears on your head. Icicles can weigh as much as 500 pounds. Back in 1978, a block of ice weighing several hundred pounds fell off the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, and killed a young woman who just happened to be walking along the sidewalk.
You may be wondering about liability for falling icicles. New York falling-icicle liability law is really the same as for any New York premises liability case. An owner of a property has a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and to correct unsafe conditions he or she is or should be aware of. This includes posting reasonable warnings.
The first step to avoid falling ice liability is take reasonable measures to avoid icicle formation. No icicles, no liability! It’s that simple. Icicles usually form because of improper ventilation or insulation in the attic, which causes some areas of the roof to warm. The warm roof melts snow, which then turns to water and runs down the roof until it reaches the edge or gutter, which is usually colder, causing the water to freeze. And, voila! An icicle is born.
But if you already have icicles, it is too late to try to prevent them from forming. In that case, if they are particularly large and heavy, and located above areas where people walk, the right thing to do (and to avoid liability) is to hire a good contractor to remove them. (Don’t try this yourself if you don’t have the proper equipment and experience — it’s too dangerous!). In the meantime, you should post large, visible warning signs and, if possible, tape off or block the areas around the building where icicles are at risk of falling on pedestrians.
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Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.