Question: I live in an upper floor apartment in Dallas and have to use the stairs. We had an ice storm come in and I slipped on ice on the stairs that had been there for a few days. I told the management about the icy stairs but they never did anything about it. I broke my leg trying to go down the stairs. Can the landlord be held responsible for my injury?
Answer: I get this question a lot. The general rule under Texas common law is that a property owner is not responsible for injuries caused by the natural accumulation of snow and ice. That means that a property owner, whether it be an apartment complex, strip mall, convenience store, supermarket, or restaurant is not required to remove snow and ice from their property. But here are situations that may render a property owner liable.
First, the common law exclusion only applies to the “natural accumulation” of snow and ice. I had a case where my client was seriously injured when she fell on ice in a parking lot that formed due to run-off from the sprinkler system. In that case, the property owner did not turn off their sprinklers which caused the water to drain onto the sidewalks and parking lot. When the temperatures dropped, the water froze. There was no rain, sleet or snow, and it was an otherwise clear day. My client parked her vehicle and fell on a patch of ice that was just beside her car. Since the ice was caused by the sprinkler system and not by any natural precipitation, the property owner was liable for causing an unreasonably dangerous condition on the property.
Second, check you local city ordinances. For instance, the City of Dallas Code of Ordinances, Chapter 43, does provide for instances where a property owner has the responsibility to remove snow and ice from sidewalks and walkways within a certain period of time. So even though the common law does not impose a legal duty, there might be a specific statute, code, or administrative rule that provides a responsibility for a property owner to remedy icy conditions.