Snow problem: icy conditions underfoot not the defendant's responsibility


02 December, 2014

Burrows v The Co-operative Group

St Helens County Court - District Judge T J Gray

On 06 January 2010, the Claimant slipped on ice on the pavement outside of a Co-operative food store. She claimed that the ice was caused by water ejected from the store's drainpipe. The Claimant alleged that water from this drainpipe flowed directly onto the pavement and that in cold weather it was reasonably foreseeable that this water would freeze. The Claimant asserted that the store had a duty to ensure that the water from its property drained safely and did not pose a danger to passers-by.

In order to succeed, the Claimant had to show that she fell on ice caused by water from the Defendant's premises. There was some discrepancy between the Claimant and one of her witnesses as to the precise location of the fall and of the ice.

The Court could not be satisfied that the ice in the location of the slip was caused by water from the store. It was held that, on balance, such water came from a combination of previous snow, fresh snow and the compacting action of passing pedestrians' feet. The Defendant was not at fault for the snow that had thawed and refrozen on the pavement outside its premises. The Judge commented that it was not the Defendant's responsibility to rectify or ameliorate the peril which the ice caused. The Claimant was unable to show that the Defendant had any duty to maintain the pavement and the claim therefore failed.

Forbes comment

Claims resulting from slips on ice and snow are common in winter and it is recommended that those responsible for premises and workplaces are aware of their responsibilities for clearing ice and snow and have appropriate policies in place.

It is worth noting that in this instance the hazard was alleged to have come from the Defendant's premises, although the fall occurred on land which was not within the Defendant's ownership.

Interestingly, the judge in this case noted that there do not appear to be any decisions regarding whether a defendant is liable for drain water run-off from its premises. Ultimately, this interesting point was not considered in any further depth by the judge in this case as the claim failed on the facts (because the Claimant could not establish that her fall was caused by water from the Defendant's premises).

For further advice on claims relating to ice and snow please contact Julia Krier on 0161 918 0000 or email


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