LIABILITY OF PUBLIC WORKS AGENCIES REGARDING SNOW AND ICE CONTROL

Many public authorities are now liable in tort negligence in the failure to remedy snow and ice hazards on highways. This paper reviews the trend towards holding public agencies liable for negligence, discusses the duty of the agencies to remove snow and ice from highways, assesses the liability of public works agencies under the "Highway Defect" statutes, and examines the special defenses of such agencies to negligence action. The liability of public agencies under the Tort Claims Acts is outlined. The duty to remedy an icy road hazard may arise where the agency has notice, either actual or constructive, of a dangerous or defective condition, and the fact that an agency failed to use abrasives may have a bearing on the question of ordinary care. Public agencies however, are not expected to guard against natural accumulations of snow and ice. In jurisdictions having "highway defect" statutes the courts hold that specific snow and ice hazards that are untreated or have inadequate warning may constitute a highway hazard. Defenses of public agencies for negligent snow and ice removal do not appear to include immunity for governmental action, several courts holding that such removal and the use of abrasives constitute maintenance or proprietary activity. A snow or ice removal program adopted by a public body having discretionary authority, which contained an inadequate or defective feature would probably be immunized, because of the courts reluctance to second guess the expert judgements of public authorities with legislative or quasi-legislative attributes. However, this initial immunity may be lost under certain circumstances.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Presented at the SALT Institute Meeting, September 1975, Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Transportation Research Board

    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Authors:
    • Thomas, L W
  • Publication Date: 1975-8

Media Info

  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: 36 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00126288
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Oct 18 1975 12:00AM