PATRICIA ROBINSON v. VINCENT CIANFARANI, JR., et al., SC 19220
Judicial District of Hartford
Negligence; Whether Property Owner is Liable for Slip and Fall Occurring on Public Sidewalk Where Town Ordinance Requiring Property Owner to Remove Snow and Ice Does not Expressly Shift Liability for Injuries Caused by a Violation of the Ordinance to Property Owner. The plaintiff brought this negligence action seeking to recover for injuries she sustained in a slip and fall on a snowy sidewalk adjacent to the defendants’ Enfield property. The defendants moved for summary judgment. They conceded that an Enfield town ordinance requires property owners timely to remove snow and ice from sidewalks on their property and that failure to do so is deemed a misdemeanor subject to a fine. The defendants also acknowledged that General Statutes § 7-163a, which permits a town to adopt an ordinance requiring abutting landowners to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks, also empowers the town to shift liability to a landowner for injuries resulting from a violation of the ordinance. The defendants cited a line of Superior Court precedent, however, holding that landowners obligated by a town ordinance to remove snow and ice from sidewalks are not liable for injuries sustained by pedestrians who slip and fall on a sidewalk unless the language of the ordinance specifically and expressly shifts liability to the landowner for injuries caused by a violation of the ordinance. The defendants argued that, as the Enfield ordinance here does not expressly transfer liability to landowners, they were not liable and were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, ruling that the Enfield ordinances did not transfer civil liability to the defendant property owners. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that, although the Enfield ordinance does not expressly impose liability on property owners, the trial court, in granting summary judgment, improperly failed to consider several alternative legal theories she claims support the imposition of liability on the defendants. Specifically, the plaintiff contends that the defendants can be liable for negligence under the common law because they exercised control over the sidewalk, because their voluntary acts undertaken to clear the sidewalk of snow and ice imposed a duty on them to perform those acts with reasonable care, and because the defendants’ violation of a town ordinance intended to protect the public constituted negligence per se.