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SJC Ruling On Snow Removal: What It Means For You

BOSTON (CBS) -- A new ruling by the state's highest court applies to the Bay State's new fallen snow. The Supreme Judicial Court's ruling says you have a duty to use "reasonable care" to remove snow and ice from your property.

That applies to commercial property owners, such as stores and shopping malls, as well as residential property owners.

Penny Fantoni of Plymouth said she was aware of the new ruling. That's why she was fulfilling her duty by shoveling her driveway Monday morning.

The 85-year-old homeowner admitted it's tough for her, but said she has "two wonderful nephews" who help her.

Attorney David White, former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, says for more than 100 years, Massachusetts property owners had a special exemption from liability for "natural accumulations."

WBZ-TV's Ron Sanders reports.

An injured person had to show accumulation was unnatural, such as a pile of plowed snow across a sidewalk. Now property owners must use reasonable care to remove all snow and ice. "So you're not expected to remove every single flake that falls on your property but you have to do so within a reasonable amount of time," explained White.

Even a snow-conscious business such as the Blue Hills skiing area must clear its walkways and parking areas. "So we have pallets of ice melt and shovels and our staff on hand that clean up every morning," said Kristin Orozovich, general manager of the ski area.

Plymouth homeowner Frank Bobblis has a question about the ruling: "What about people who are away?"

Attorney White said you need to make reasonable arrangements. The ruling will be applied on a case-by-case basis.

WBZ viewer Steve Blanchard was curious to know who owns the sidewalks. "In most cases, it's the town sidewalk...Roads and sidewalks are not covered by this ruling," said White.

His law firm had some legal advice for property owners. After you clear snow and ice from your driveways and walkways, if you can't safely move across them, you put others at risk and you risk liability.

In case you wonder what to do if snow accumulates while you're at work, attorney White says you can take care of it when you get home.

He said he expects an uptick in residential lawsuits.

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