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What is the storm in progress doctrine?

With winter knocking at New Jersey’s door, you know that snow, ice and sleet cannot be all that far off. Which, in turn, means that you soon will be at more risk than usual for falling on poorly maintained sidewalks, driveways and parking lots and sustaining what could be a serious injury.

Despite the fact that you expect property owners, especially commercial property owners and the city and state, to keep their surfaces clean and free of ice and snow, they do not always have to do so. FindLaw explains that under New Jersey’s storm in progress doctrine, you may wind up walking through and on more snow and ice than you expected.

Storm in progress

In effect since 2005, the storm in progress doctrine holds that property owners need not clear their property as long as a storm is going on. They can wait until it is over before beginning their clean-up process. Unfortunately for you as a pedestrian, this doctrine means that should you fall on someone’s slick outdoor surfaces before (s)he has the legal duty to clear them, (s)he may not be liable for whatever injuries you sustain.

As legally defined, “storm in progress” means any type of bad weather that continues for several hours or more. It does not have to be an outright blizzard, nor does it have to remain at full force the entire time. It can come and go as storms are so often wont to do. It can also change its nature, such as going from freezing drizzle to wintry mix to snow and back again.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.