Residents responsible for de-icing sidewalks

The recent snows here didn't really amount to much, but a couple of times I noticed that some sidewalks were covered in snow or ice. It made me wonder whose responsibility it is to clean off the snow or if anyone has to do that to make the sidewalk safe. It seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen, especially where there are slopes.

— Ginnie S., Medford

You're right about the potential for lawsuits, Ginnie, which probably explains why the city of Medford has an ordinance expressly requiring residents to shovel off and/or de-ice the sidewalks that run through or next to their property.

Not only are they required to clean off the walkways, but the city has a deadline for you if your sidewalk winds up snow-covered: within two hours after the snowfall. The clock does not start ticking until daylight.

Here is what the city ordinance (5.510 Ice and Snow Removal) says:

"An owner or occupant of property abutting a sidewalk shall remove snow accumulated upon the sidewalk, and shall make an ice-covered sidewalk safe by removing the ice or covering the ice with a suitable material allowing safe travel, within the first two hours of daylight following the snow accumulation or ice formation."

That snow-ice ordinance reinforces another ordinance, which states that property owners are responsible and liable for upkeep of sidewalks. That ordinance (3.010 Owners to Maintain Sidewalks) reads:

"The owners of property within the city shall inspect and maintain all sidewalks abutting their property in a condition safe for use by the public at all times. If any property owner by his neglect to perform any duty required of him by this section causes injury or damage to any person or property, he shall be liable to the person suffering such injury or damage and shall indemnify the city for all damages it has been compelled to pay in such case. Such damages may be collected in a civil action against the property owner."

So the next time it snows, Ginnie, be prepared to break out either your snow shovel or your lawyer. We happen to know that one of those two choices is much less expensive.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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