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Skating Through Snow and Ice Mishaps - A Primer in Vermont’s Premises Liability Law

November 17, 2021
January 27, 2021

In Vermont, an owner has a duty to use reasonable diligence to maintain its property in a reasonably safe and suitable condition and to remedy conditions that he is or should be aware of. McCormack v. State, 150 Vt. 443, 446 (1988); Wakefield v. Tygate Motel Corp., 161 Vt. 395, 398 (1994). A landlord must remedy dangerous conditions even if the tenant rented with knowledge of the condition. Favreau v. Miller, 156 Vt. 222 (1991).  A business owner must take reasonable care to know the conditions of his premises. If he discovers a dangerous condition, he must either take reasonable steps to make it safe or sufficiently warn about it for a reasonable time until it can be fixed. Forcier v. Grand Union, 390 Vt. 389 (1970) (opening premises to the public carries with it some measure of assurance of safety, which the owner makes good, by active care, if necessary); see also Smith v. Monmaney & Spano, 127 Vt. 585 (1969) (duty extends to dangerous incident to accumulations of snow and ice). “The owner of premises is not liable to one who goes thereon as an invitee for injuries resulting from a danger that was obvious to the latter or should have been observed in the exercise of ordinary care.” Wall v. A. N. Deringer, 119 Vt. 36 (1955).

Snow Removal/ Storm in Progress Doctrine

While the Vermont Supreme Court has not explicitly recognized the Storm in Progress Doctrine, in Turmel v. University of Vermont, it was implied that in at least two supreme court cases that the State’s normal plowing procedures satisfied its duty and did not include insuring against snow “sloughing off” into the road and that the court would not create an affirmative duty for snow removal. 2004 WL 5460386 (Vt. Super) (citing McCormack v. State, 150 Vt. 443, 446 (1998) and Wakefield v. Tygate Motel Corp., 161 Vt. 395, 398 (1994)).