In Denver, the responsibility of sidewalk maintenance rests with the owner, occupant or agent of a property. The sidewalk area is generally defined as between the property line and the curb adjacent to a property. The enforcement is assigned to the city's Department of Public Works, whose duties include construction projects, street maintenance, trash collection, curbside recycling and wastewater/sewer systems. Many of Denver's aging sidewalks are in poor condition, and enforcement is minimal, unless there are specific complaints. The department has the authority to order a property owner to repair their sidewalk. If the owner doesn't comply in a timely manner, they can have the sidewalk repaired and assess a property lien until the repair costs are paid.
WalkDenver is an advocacy group that promotes safety and walkability in the city, and is leading a movement for the city to assume responsibility for sidewalks. In March of 2016, WalkDenver delivered a completed petition to the Denver City Council on behalf of the citizens for the city to determine a funding source and assume responsibility for sidewalk building and repairs. Other municipalities in the area have instituted similar programs such as Westminster, Englewood, and Lakewood, CO.
With the winter weather approaching, property owners will need to begin clearing snow and ice that accumulates on their sidewalks. Can the property owner be held liable for injuries of a pedestrian in a “slip and fall” occurrence on the sidewalk? The muni code Section 49-551 states that “The owner, occupant or agent of any building, property, or vacant lot in the city is required to maintain the sidewalks in a clean condition and to remove snow and ice”. This issue has been argued in the Colorado Court of Appeals when a pedestrian was injured after falling on a snow and ice covered sidewalk. The ruling is summarized as follows:
- That the law in this instance does not constitute civil liability for the property owner under the law of the premises liability statute.
- It is not appropriate for the court to impose civil liabilities based on snow removal ordinances.
- A key point in assessing landowner liability is based on the status of the individual who entered the property, which are classified as such:
- Licensee: Such as social guests, or others with landowner consent.
- Invitee: Such as delivery people or others transacting business, with implied consent.
- Trespasser: Enters property without landowner knowledge, such as a pedestrian. The court did determine the Plaintiff to fall within this category.
Premises liability law in Colorado can become extremely complex. If you were injured while on someone else's property, you owe it to yourself to consider your options and determine if you are entitled to compensation. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has been on the side of injury victims for many years. For a free consultation of your case, contact the office today!