During the winter months, Freking & Betz receives many calls about slip and falls on ice and snow. The general rule in Ohio is that an owner or occupier of land ordinarily owes no duty to others to remove natural accumulations of ice and snow. The rationale for this rule is that the dangers from natural ice and snow accumulations are ordinarily so obvious and apparent that a person on the premises will discover those dangers and protect himself or herself against them.
But, there are exceptions to this general rule. The premises owner may be liable if the owner negligently causes or permits an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow. An “unnatural accumulation” is one that has been created by causes and factors other than inclement weather conditions. An example is a defective down spout that directs water across a sidewalk. The misdirected water freezes as “black ice,” and is not an open and obvious hazard.
Another exception is when a municipality passes an ordinance that premises owners are required to clear adjacent sidewalks.