Legally Speaking – with Bob Mionske: Drifting along the road

Dear Bob,Many businesses around Salt Lake City plow the snow from their propertyinto the street (often in the designated bike path). Are they potentiallyliable for injuries to cyclist that result from this action?Jeff,Salt Lake City, UtahDear Jeff,The mountains in the west have received some new snow and because thecycling season is well underway, your question is topical. Consideringhow often it snows in Salt Lake I am sure that you run into the problemof being forced off the shoulder and into traffic on many occasions bypiled up snow.Salt Lake City city ordinance 14.20.080, entitled

By Bob Mionske

Dear Bob,
Many businesses around Salt Lake City plow the snow from their propertyinto the street (often in the designated bike path). Are they potentiallyliable for injuries to cyclist that result from this action?
Jeff,
Salt Lake City, UtahDear Jeff,
The mountains in the west have received some new snow and because thecycling season is well underway, your question is topical. Consideringhow often it snows in Salt Lake I am sure that you run into the problemof being forced off the shoulder and into traffic on many occasions bypiled up snow.Salt Lake City city ordinance 14.20.080, entitled “ObstructingRight of Way With Snow Prohibited” speaks directly to your concern:

It is unlawful to place snow removed from private propertyin the public way. It is unlawful to place snow removed from sidewalks,drive approaches or other public places in a manner so as to cause a hazardto vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Although so called “snow dumping” is illegal, it is not clear exactly whatthe penalties are for individuals involved in such activity. However, itis clear that both the business/property owner and the snow plower thatthey hire will both be liable in some respect according to city ordinancesection 1.12.020 (liability of employers and agents):

When the provisions of this code prohibit the commissionor omission of an act, not only the person actually doing the prohibitedthing or omitting the directed act, but also the employer and all otherpersons concerned or aiding and abetting therein shall be guilty of theoffense described and liable to the penalty prescribed for the offense.

Although there are no specific penalties enumerated for a violationof 14.20.080, the general provisions of the Salt Lake City Codeprovide the following penalties for violations of the Code.Section 1.12.050 – Violation Penalty

Any person convicted of violating any provision of the cityordinances codified, shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor, unless otherwisespecified in such ordinance or interpreted by the court as a class C misdemeanor,infraction, or civil violation, and such violations shall be punished asfollows:A. In the case of a class B misdemeanor, by a fine in anysum not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or by imprisonment fora term not longer than six (6) months, or by both such fine and imprisonment;
B. In the case of a class C misdemeanor, by a fine in anysum not exceeding seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) or by imprisonmentfor a term not longer than ninety (90) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment;
C. In the case of an infraction, by a fine in any sum notexceeding seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00);
D. In the case of a civil penalty violation, by a total assessmentnot in excess of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00);
E. The sentence to pay a fine or civil penalty, when imposedupon a corporation, association or partnership, for a class B misdemeanoror civil penalty violation, shall be in any sum not exceeding five thousanddollars ($5,000.00);
F. The sentence to pay a fine, when imposed upon a corporation,association or partnership, for a class C misdemeanor or infraction, shallbe in any sum not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000.00)

In conclusion, if you are continuously faced with the problem ofsnow dumping on public streets by private business owners or residentscontact the Salt Lake City Council or Mayor’s office to report such violations.Local politicians are well aware of the law regarding snow removal andenforcement is likely only a phone call away. In the meantime, if you areunfortunate enough to be involved in an accident because of such dumpingyou probably have a viable claim.
Good luck,
Bob
(Research and drafting assistance provided by Justin Reiner-lawstudent- Willamette University School of Law)
 


Now read the fine print:
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who representedthe U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the roadrace), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championshiproad race.After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached theSaturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to lawschool. Mionske’s practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to mionskelaw@hotmail.comBob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He willalso select a few questions each week to answer in this column. Generalbicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.Important notice:
The information provided in the “Legally speaking”column is not legal advice. The information provided on this publicweb site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors tothis web site. The information contained in the column applies to generalprinciples of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legaldevelopments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and thereforeshould not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand thatreading the information contained in this column does not mean youhave established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske.Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained inthe web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.