Commercial establishments have a duty to make sure their property is safe for patrons. When the weather turns bad and snow and ice falls, a business must take reasonable steps to make sure that their property is free from hazards when they open for business. Most businesses hire snow removal companies to perform the tasks for them or clear their property themselves. One thing is clear, if you're going to open for business, you have to make sure that the property is in a safe condition.
Safety means that the property is free from hazards for all users. Business owners know that despite the bad weather there will be people coming to their property without the proper foot wear or who are elderly or infirm. They must make their property safe for all reasonable users.
Just because someone falls on a commercial property does not mean that the owner is liable. The injured person must prove that the property owner did not take the appropriate steps and that the property was in a dangerous condition. In addition, the person who fell may be partially at fault themselves.
Where there has been a significant snowfall, the snow is usually piled up in large piles around the perimeter of the property. These large piles, and even smaller piles that are scattered throughout the property, can melt during the day when Sun comes our or when the temperatures increase. It is not uncommon for temperatures to go over freezing during the day, causing snow to melt, and then returned to below freezing at night, resulting in the wet pavement to freeze over. This is a condition known as re-freeze or black ice.
Re-freeze or black ice is a known phenomenon and can be very dangerous to people walking on the property. One of the reasons that black ice is extremely dangerous is because the ice itself tends to blend in with the asphalt, thus the term "black ice."
Black ice can re-freeze can be eliminated through the use of salt or calcium chloride. Proper application of substances to make sure that the ice does not freeze over and create hazards may mean that the snow removal contractor must return to the premises more than once to reapply salt. Just simply plowing a lot and leaving the snow to melt is not enough.