BOSTON (CBS) — A Supreme Judicial Court ruling over the summer makes it nearly mandatory that home and business owners clear the sidewalks in front of their property.

It’s because if someone slips and falls in front of the property and can prove that the owner should have known to clear the area, a successful lawsuit can be filed.

WBZ News Radio’s Bernice Corpuz talks with David Frank with Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly about the ruling.

Comments (23)
  1. Delilah Fair says:

    Sure that’s great if you can get to the sidewalk to begin with. Where I live people park on the sidewalks and you have to either walk on their lawns or in the street.

    1. Geo says:

      If the sidewalk property is owned by the city, just like the street, city hall, fire station, etc… Explain again why an adjoining property owner is required to maintain city property… without being paid… without workers comp…. AND being held liable for mishaps on the city owned sidewalk? (btw – your homeowners/business insurance doesn’t cover mishaps on property you don’t own!) Slavery has been outlawed. Conscripted soldiers are fed, paid & provided health care. Seems the city could demand citizens clean the firehouse & city hall too… & the streets. As a lawyer I can assure anyone these laws won’t pass Constitutional muster! This question needs to be in Federal Court & I’d love to see what Constitutional foundation would allow the government to force citizens, under color of law, to maintain government property.

  2. Mike J says:

    I guess thats one good thing about living in Tewksbury, not having any sidewalks. Yet , I would glady clear my sidewalk (if I had one) so my kids and neighbors could walk safely. The only thing Tewksbury is concerned about is their multi-million dollar sewer system. Sidewalks would be nice.

    1. Bear says:

      If your house is more than a few feet from the street then most people would have a walkway, and this is what the SJC case was about, not the public sidewalk.

  3. peggy says:

    LOL Who makes that great law-enforceable? I walk sidewalks every day. I am disabled and going out into traffic you end up hospital! Who out there cares!

  4. Jean says:

    It’s sad that we have to pass laws that mandate that people do the right thing and clear sidewalks. When they aren’t plowed or shoveled, then walkers are forced into the already narrow streets. :My neighborhood always takes care of it’s sidewalks and elderly neighbors.

  5. al says:

    I have a question. If the walkway in front of the house is owned by the city or state is the homeowner still responsible and liable for the removal of the snow?

  6. cynic says:

    Sorry…my comment disappeared before I could finish it…. Too bad…You might have found it interesting.

  7. Bear says:

    Please be aware that the July 2009 SJC ruling has NOTHING to do with snow on public sidewalks along public roads; it only applies to private property, including the shopping mall parking lot in Danvers were the original incident took place. You may get a municipal citation for not shoveling public walks in front of your property, but you’re still not liable for injuries due to snow on a sidewalk you don’t own, unless you put it there…

  8. Linda says:

    I want to know what elected officials passed, or pursued such an unfair law that mandates that new snow or even snow be removed by homeowners or else be fined and become liable. This unfair, arbitrary law make homeowners liable will make them victims to any unscrupulous persons and lawyers to make easy fast money by suing homeowners. Can’t wait to see that TV add. When homeowners start being dragged into court with claims that they were injured because someone didn’t shovel perhaps losing their homes or have to pay large settlement plus the cost of lawyers and courts. Never mind all the elderly, disabled or sick people who can’t shovel. Plus if you can’t do it you have to pay someone, if you can find someone to do it. When people final get fed up enough with the current elected officials they won’t be elected again. More reasons to move out of Massachusetts.

  9. bob says:

    Looks like a lot of people are going to become rich without having to earn it. People like to sew, mind you.

  10. bob says:

    People can have heart attacks from shoveling this heavy wet snow. But this stupid state doesn’t care. All they care about is that revenue money because YOU didn’t shovel.

  11. bob says:

    If this state doesn’t wake up, Massachusetts will be the least populated state in the country. This new law is the latest in a long line of stupid, unfair laws.

  12. bob says:

    Living in Massachusetts gets worse by the day.

  13. bob says:

    This is such a high-cost state and nothing to show for it. I’m moving out of Massachusetts the first chance I get.

  14. bob says:

    Keep in mind that this is a liberal state fighting for all the slugs who don’t want to contribute to society. “Live in Massachusetts and get rich off the courts and the government. It sure beats having to work”!!!!

  15. Spudsy says:

    Is this a MA law or City of Boston?

  16. Tony says:

    This is just another Liberal scam to get more money out people in fines.

    No other New England State has such laws. Private property is not a public thruway, nor should anyone be using using private property as such unless invited.

    The USPS gives mail-carriers the optoin not to deliver mail if they feel it is too riksy.

    1. Tony says:

      I find it interesting that Mass does not allow anyone to sue the government when they are negligent in snow removal,, yet they encourage the sueing of private property owners.

  17. Joe says:

    The sidewalk snow removal law is unnecessary and burdensome.

    The sidewalks do not belong to owners of adjacent properties. They are not responsible for the sidewalks being there in the first place. The sidewalks are property of the city and should be cleared by a public works department if they going to be cleared at all. The city should be taking all responsibility for them, including the hazard liability. That is part of the cost of building any new sidewalk, which should be considered by the city before their construction.

    Free-loading off the neighbors of the city property should not be entertained by a city council. If your neighborhood’s sidewalk was not cleared last year, blame the city, not the neighbor!

    That way, every home-owner in the neighborhood would not have to purchase a snow-blower and find a way to keep people from stealing it. Absentee owners and elders would not all be contracting separately to find people to do the the job. It is horribly inefficient and expensive. It will also cause property insurance rates to rise over slip-and-fall tort claims.

    Owners pay their taxes for public works so that they do not have to take risks and perform public services themselves.

    I’m going to investigate which members of my city government are involved in this, and are seeking reelection.

    And I will be voting for different people.

  18. Neighbor says:

    why dont americans stop being so lazy and just clear walk ways and areas around bus stops near there houses themselves. Im 21 ive been shoveling driveways and walkways since I was a kid. Its not that much work and im sure your neighbor could give you a hand. People are just lazy and make up ever excuse in the book as to why they cant shovel. I understand if your a senior but lets be real maybe some people can have their kids that play video games all day on a snow day and have them go out and do it

  19. Joe says:

    Its not about being lazy. It’s about being able to choose the things that we do or not do, and not being micromanaged by the city. Its about my hatred of being threatened to do work, and worrying about a lawsuit even if I do the work.

    Its about cities taking care of their own properties, and not passing laws to compel bystanders to do it. It disregards the fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. And it will cost the public more money to keep the walks shoveled than the city will save by not having an employee doing it.

    Of course, I’m somebody who got roped into this shoveling scam, and I’m not even the owner.

    Several years back, the city put a useless sidewalk in front of the lot. It was useless because there was already a sidewalk on the other side of the street.

    It was so useless that for many winters, it did not get shoveled and nobody cared. The state decided to use this as a cash cow for harassing people and fining them $50 per day.

    Obviously, it was a non-issue for many years. The Commonwealth made it an issue so that it could escape its own responsibility for its own properties. When the Supreme Court decided that people can make successful suits over unshoveled walks, city managers started worrying about lawsuits against the city for its unshoveled paths.

    That is part of the reason behind their creative solution of dumping the problem on the neighbor. And now the people compelled to shovel the sidewalk get sued along with the city if somebody trips.

  20. joan brown says:

    Hi _ I think it is sad that the majority of these commenters did not even listen to the interview or read that this Supreme Judicial Court decision does NOT apply to city or town owned sidewalks at all! It applied only to privately owned property.

    Also it’s sad that so many of them cannot spell.


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