LIABILITY OF STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FOR SNOW AND ICE CONTROL

Generalizations on the probability of jury verdicts for plaintiffs, and the relative size of jury awards where a governmental body is the defendent are noted, the erosion of sovereign immunity is discussed, the current state of liability of Federal, State and local governments is reviewed, and comments are made on the duty to remove snow and ice. Limitations of duty, care concerning use of abrasives, governmental-proprietary test of immunity, and discretionary-ministerial duty test of immunity are also discussed. Public authorities at the city, county and state level are now liable in tort for negligence in the failure to remedy snow and ice hazards on the highways. Cases hold public authorities liable in many instances where they fail to salt or sand an icy road hazard or rail to provide adequate warning of danger. In those 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 defect. Defenses of public agencies for negligent snow and ice removal do not appear to include immunity for governmental action, several courts holding that snow and ice removal and the use of abrasives constitute maintenance or proprietary activity. The defense that snow and ice control is a "discretionary activity" and, therefore, innune from liability also appears to be inapplicable, whether an action is brought in a common law jurisdiction or in one having a tort claims act. A snow and ice removal program, however, adopted by a public body having discretionary authority that contained an inadequate or defective feature may be immunized because of the courts' reluctance to second-guess the judgements of public authorities with legislative or quasi-legislative attributes. However, this initial immunity may be lost or fail to attach under certain circumstances. It is pointed out that there may be a duty to review any snow and ice control program in order to discover and correct any features that are hazardous in actual operation.

Media Info

  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: 16 p.
  • Serial:
  • Publication flags:

    Open Access (libre)

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00131347
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: May 14 1976 12:00AM