|Photo from IndyGov website instructing |
people how they want City's sidewalks cleared
This year it was Fox59 that repeated the City's lie in a piece given the headline "Shovel your sidewalk after the weekend snow, or face a fine." Uh, no.
Here's what I wrote last winter.
This year, more than any other the issue has come up regarding Indianapolis' ordinance requiring that property owners clean the sidewalk in front of their business or residence or face a fine? Complaints have mounted about the ordinance not being enforced. Channel 13 just did a story on the failure to enforce the ordinance.
I started thinking more about the legality of the sidewalk ordinance. First, a sidewalk is always: 1) in the road right-of-way; or 2) a public easement on the owner's property Regarding the former, there definitely would not be a duty of the property owner to clear the sidewalk as that is not even the owner's property. Regarding the latter, the property owner wouldn't be responsible for an "act of God" created by snow or even third party pushing snow up onto a sidewalk while plowing the streets. The prohibition is only on the property owner interfering with the use of the easement, not third parties or God.
It turns out that the Court of Appeals agrees. In 2002, in the case of Lawson v. Lafayette Home Hospital, Inc., 760 NE 2d 1126, 1129 (Ind. App. 2002), the Court of Appeals stated:
It is well settled in Indiana that an owner or occupant of property abutting a public street or sidewalk has no duty to clear those streets and sidewalks of ice and snow. Hirschauer v. C & E Shoe Jobbers, Inc., 436 N.E.2d 107, 110-11 (Ind.Ct.App. 1982) (citations omitted). Additionally, municipal ordinances that require abutting owners or occupiers to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks do not, as a matter of law, create a duty under which an owner or occupier can be held liable to third party pedestrians. Carroll v. Jobe, 638 N.E.2d 467, 471 (Ind.Ct.App.1994), trans. denied; Hirschauer, 436 N.E.2d at 111 (citations omitted)....
In 2007, the Court of Appeals dealt directly with Indianapolis sidewalk snow remvoal ordinance. In that case, Denison Parking, Inc. v. Davis, 861 NE 2d 1276, 120 (Ind. App. 2007), the Court of Appeals again said a municipality cannot use an ordinance to impose on a property owner a duty to clear a sidewalk from ice and snow. Channel 6 covered the story back in 2007.
The reason Indianapolis is not enforcing the sidewalk snow removal ordinance is that the City can't.By continuing to issue phony threats to the public, officials are opening up Indianapolis to a class action lawsuit to recover the cost of the labor for all those who worked to clear the public sidewalks falsely believing they were required to do so. Another possibility is individual lawsuits from property owners who might have heart attacks or get injured while clearing the sidewalks falsely believing they were obligated by law to do so.
Note: The City's website even contains the phony claim that property owners have a duty to clear the ice. See also here.