March 2021
Missouri Appellate Court Reaffirms the Massachusetts Rule: there is no duty to remove snow or ice that accumulates naturally and is a condition general to the community
Clinton Turley

On March 9, 2021, the Eastern District reaffirmed the Massachusetts Rule, finding that landowners and/or possessors of property have “no duty to remove snow or ice that accumulates naturally and is a condition general to the community.” O’Donnell v. PNK (River City), LLC, 619 S.W.3d 162 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021).

 

There, Colleen O’Donnell was at River City Casino during a winter ice storm, though she arrived before any precipitation or accumulation had begun. When she left after a few hours, she slipped and fell on a patch of ice on the sidewalk and sustained injuries. The trial court granted River City’s Motion for Summary Judgment and O’Donnell appealed.

 

The Court reaffirmed that Missouri follows the Massachusetts Rule, further noting there is an exception to the Rule where the property owner voluntarily assumes the duty to remove snow or ice either (1) by agreement or (2) through a course of conduct. As to the latter, the conduct requires the property owner to alter the condition of the snow or ice on the premises in order for the exception to apply. Warning persons on the property and assisting them to their vehicles is not enough to fall within the exception.

 

Finding no applicable exception, the Eastern District affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. To hold otherwise, the Court said, would be to impose a duty which would be virtually impossible to perform, i.e., removing snow or ice as it is falling. 

 

Interestingly, the Eastern District did note that the Massachusetts Rule “may incentivize landowners and occupiers not to address dangerous conditions of snow and ice when those are natural accumulations and represent a general condition of the area.” The Court declined to abrogate the Rule, noting that is solely within the purview of the Missouri Supreme Court.

 

The case was remanded to the trial court on reversal of summary judgment on factual issues as to a co-defendant who had contracted to perform snow and ice removal for the casino.