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Patch reader Chris writes: I noticed that on Crooks Road from 12 Mile to 13 Mile there are a lot of patches of sidewalk that have not been shoveled. This includes business like gas stations, a grocery store and other businesses. There are students that walk home from the middle school northward and from the high school southward that walk these sidewalks. They were very icy today and have shown no signs of ever having the snow cleared since the storm. On two occasions I've seen elderly women walking in the street to avoid the sidewalk.
Is there a city ordinance requiring shoveling snow off the sidewalks and if so, why isn't it being enforced?
City Attorney Dave Gillam addressed the issue of shoveling sidewalks at the Dec. 16 Royal Oak City Commission meeting. Here's what he said:
Royal Oak does not have an ordinance for clearing sidewalks.
"The justification for that is because case law has made clear that natural accumulation of snow and ice on a public sidewalk is not something that a community can be held civilly liable for," Gillam said. "On the other hand, if a community requires some action to be taken to clear the sidewalk and the action that’s taken does give rise to a dangerous condition, then the city can be held liable for requiring the action to have been taken in the first place."
Though Royal Oak property owners aren't legally required to remove snow from their sidewalk, the Michigan Insurance Review says it's still a good idea.
"As a homeowner you are liable for anyone who slips and falls on your property even if it is on the sidewalk," notes the Michigan Insurance Review. "Regardless of how much traffic your sidewalk gets, just one slip and fall can be a huge home owner’s insurance claim. Depending on how severe the injuries are, you could be looking at your full liability limit. Keep your sidewalk clear of snow and spread salt and or sand to prevent ice related slip and falls."
UPDATE: As a follow up, a reader wants to know if State law requires clearing your sidewalk of snow.
Here's what Gillam had to say:
"I’m not aware of any State law requiring a property owner to clear snow from sidewalk in front of his/her property."
A property owner could have civil liability for failing to clear his or her sidewalk if a pedestrian fell and was injured, Gillam said, but that’s a separate issue.