25 Mar “Massachusetts Rule” – Slip and Falls During a Storm
The Massachusetts Rule
Generally speaking, a landowner is responsible for dangerous conditions on their property. One such dangerous condition can be in the form of snow or ice that results in a customer (or invitee) falling and getting hurt. However, one exception to liability for the landowner is the “Massachusetts Rule”, which basically states that a landowner does not have a duty to remove snow or ice that accumulates naturally, especially during an active storm. In other words, if you are at a gas station and it is snowing and then you fall, under the Massachusetts Rule, the gas station may not owe you a duty to keep the premises safe. This Massachusetts Rule has been around in Missouri since 1954 and was recently reaffirmed by the Eastern District of Missouri (meaning it is still good law). The idea behind the Massachusetts Rule makes sense – we cannot expect a landowner to be out there shoving, plowing and salting during the entirety of a storm. It would be an exercise in futility, especially if the storm is expected to continue raging. That being said, if a landowner chooses to keep an establishment open during a particularly unsafe time, should they then accept the duty of ensuring the premises are safe? We will see if the Missouri Supreme Court takes up the case or if the Massachusetts Rule remains good law in Missouri. The takeaway for people is to be careful when there is snow and ice on the ground, especially when it is actively falling because, if you get hurt as a result of it, you may not have legal recourse. Better yet, stay indoors and safe!
Thanks for reading!
Tarun B. Rana, Esq.
Rana Law Group
655 Craig Road, Suite 252
St. Louis, MO 63141
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