Baby It's Cold Outside
The end-of-year holidays are usually a mix of family, friends, cheer, and hurried shopping in variations of snow, rain, sleet, or the other delicacies Mother Nature gifts us with from November through January. Those delicacies often lead to wet store entrances as customers and patrons track in ice and snow. If you’re a store owner, you might find yourself on the other end of a complaint, or even a lawsuit, by a customer who has slipped and fallen on the snow or ice tracked in your store by other customers. If you are a storefront business owner in Illinois, what’s your responsibility to customers to keep your entryways dry?
In Illinois, property owners and business operators are not liable for injuries resulting from the natural accumulation of ice, snow or water that is tracked into the premises. Under the so-called “natural accumulation rule,” property owners and business operators do not have a duty to remove the tracks or residue left inside the building by customers who have walked through natural accumulations outside. However, if the property owner voluntarily implements safety measures, such as placing mats or mopping up wet areas, the property owner has a duty to exercise due care in implementing those measures. And if the customer can establish that the means of ingress and egress was unsafe for any other reason than a natural accumulation, including that the flooring was made of a particularly slippery material, or that the design of the building led to an unnatural accumulation of water or snow, then the property owner may be liable.
Of course, slippery floors will likely keep some customers at bay, so consider ultimate business goals when determining how to handle your storefront’s messy entryway. To the extent owners do decide to voluntarily implement safety measures, they should use due care and common sense to keep those entryways as safe as possible for customers.