Every year there's a newspaper article about why we who live in New Hampshire don't have to shovel our sidewalks. State v. Jackman, 69 N.H. 318 (1898) is the case that lets us be warm and cozy inside while our neighbors slip and slide on our snowy sidewalks. To read the case, follow the link below.
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New Hampshire Municipal Association. Winter Maintenance of Roads and Sidewalks. November/December 2009
As winter approaches, it is time once again for towns and cities to review their policies regarding plowing, salting and sanding of municipal roads and sidewalks. While every town and city has a good deal of experience with these duties, the specific responsibilities and limitations placed on New Hampshire municipalities by state and federal law continue to evolve.
New Hampshire. Dept. of Transportation. Winter Maintenance
"It is impractical to develop specific rules on winter maintenance operations due to the numerous variables involved in winter storms. The judgment of the local highway patrol foreman governs the type, quantities and application schedule of materials used to control snow and ice. It is the intent of the NHDOT to use the minimum deicing or anti-icing material needed to restore safe travel conditions as soon as practical following termination of winter storms."
United States. Dept. of Transportation. FHWA. Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety Research Report, 2013
Laws and municipal ordinances play an important role establishing who is responsible for pedestrian facility maintenance. In determining which entity is responsible by law for the maintenance, it is necessary to review state statutes and often state case law to determine legal precedent in cases of civil liability. In most circumstances, liability in regards to pedestrian facility maintenance revolves around trip-and-fall and slip-and-fall cases on sidewalks. If a pedestrian trips on a cracked or uneven sidewalk or slips on an icy sidewalk in winter, sustains injuries and/or damages and seeks monetary compensation, who is found at fault and why?
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New Hampshire Cases
69 N.H. 318. State v. Jackman
State v. Jackman, 69 N.H. 318 (1898) is the case so many newspaper articles refer to when they write about snow removal. It's difficult to find case law this old online, so we've scanned the print version and uploaded it.
120 N.H. 788 (1980). Rutkauskas v. Hodgins
The principal issue in this case is whether the owner of a building which redirects precipitation, thereby causing an accumulation of snow and ice on a public sidewalk immediately adjacent to the building, is strictly liable to a tenant who is injured by falling on the snow-covered sidewalk. We hold that there is no such liability.
126 N.H. 286 (1985). Ritzman v. Kashulines
On January 17, 1982, Jane L. Ritzman slipped and fell on a natural accumulation of snow on the shoulder of Main Street in Hopkinton. Mrs. Ritzman fell while walking toward the sidewalk in front of the defendants' store, The Cracker Barrel. The area where she fell is used for parking by customers of the store and has been periodically plowed by the defendants.
Mrs. Ritzman and her husband filed suit against the defendants, alleging that the defendants had a duty to maintain the parking area in a reasonably safe condition and that Mrs. Ritzman's injury was proximately caused by a breach of this duty. The Superior Court (O'Neil, J.) dismissed the suit in response to a summary judgment motion of the defendants.
New Hampshire Court Orders
2007-0618. Tinker v. Town of Tilton
The plaintiff brought an action seeking injunctive relief that would require the Town to make the section of sidewalk at issue accessible to persons with disabilities by removing snow from it during the winter months.
2009-0012. Tinker v. Commissioner Dept. Of Transportation
[T]o the extent a sidewalk is deemed part of a “facility” that is “required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities” under the ADA, the maintenance obligations of the public entity having control over the sidewalk include the reasonable removal of snow, ice or debris rendering the sidewalk inaccessible. Because, as noted above, the town concedes that 28 C.F.R. § 35.133 applies to the sidewalk at issue, the trial court did not err by concluding that the town’s maintenance obligations relative to it include the removal of snow, ice and debris. ... The refusal to remove any snow is not a reasonable limit upon the removal of snow, but is an abdication by the town of its obligation altogether.
These are examples of some local town and city ordinances dealing with snow removal.
About New Hampshire Supreme Court Orders
The two Tinker documents are final orders - not opinions - from the New Hampshire Supreme Court that decided the merits of Tinker's cases. The Supreme Court publishes final orders for informational purposes, but, unlike opinions, they have no precedential value and they shouldn't be cited in any pleadings or rulings in any court in New Hampshire.
Until recently, final orders were not easily available. They weren't published anywhere in print or online. You had to request a copy of a final order from the Supreme Court clerk's office. Final orders from September 2014 to the present are now available on the Supreme Court's website.
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For More Information ...
New Hampshire Law Library
The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.
Volunteer attorneys are available to answer legal questions through LawLine, a free service of the NH Bar Association. LawLine is held on the SECOND Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. To reach LawLine, call (toll free) 800-868-1212.
Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.