X

Legal Memorandum: Slip and Fall Cases in WI

Issue: Whether a city would be considered liable in a slip and fall case on a sidewalk if an ordinance designates responsibility to the property owner.

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Liability of city; Slip and fall case on a sidewalk; Property owner's responsibility
Jurisdiction: Wisconsin
Cited Cases: 129 Wis. 2d 545; 7 Wis. 2d 286; 81 Wis. 2d 334; 14 Wis. 2d 68; 75 N.W.2d 289; 260 N.W.2d 686; 246 Wis. 2d 933; 109 N.W.2d 452; 342 N.W.2d 435; 694 N.W.2d 492; 258 Wis. 2d 80; 22 Wis. 2d 101; 149 N.W.2d 618; 272 Wis. 355; 262 N.W.2d 102; 202 N.W.2d 415; 646 N.W.2d 777; 8 Wis. 2d 378; 212 N.W.2d 484; 125 N.W.2d 341; 99 N.W.2d 119; 34 Wis. 2d 260; 34 Wis. 2d 272; 149 N.W.2d 624
Cited Statutes: Wis. Stat. § 81.17, § 893.83; Wis. Stat. § 66.0907
Date: 05/01/2008

 

There is a “long-established public policy in Wisconsin, enunciated in both statutes and common law, that places the primary responsibility for the maintenance of sidewalks . . . on the municipalities.”  Physicians Plus Ins. Corp. v. Midwest Mut. Ins. Co., 246 Wis. 2d 933, 954, 632 N.W.2d 59, 68 (Wis. Ct. App. 2001), aff’d, 254 Wis. 2d 77, 646 N.W.2d 777 (2002).  Importantly,

even though a municipality, by ordinance, may impose upon the individual landowner some duty with respect to the care or maintenance of a public way, the individual is not burdened with the responsibility for injuries arising from his neglect to perform the duty in the absence of any statutory provision to that effect because the primary duty to maintain public ways may not be delegated.

 

Id. at 953-54, 632 N.W.2d at 68 (quoting Hagerty v. Village of Bruce, 82 Wis. 2d 208, 214, 262 N.W.2d 102 (1978)). 

Thus, an ordinance placing the responsibility for sidewalk maintenance, and the property owner’s acceptance of that responsibility, do not absolve the city of liability for injuries resulting from a sidewalk defect.  See Stippich v. City of Milwaukee, 34 Wis. 2d 260, 270, 149 N.W.2d 618, 623 (1967) (stating that, although the city can require an abutting property owner to clean sidewalks and otherwise keep them safe for public use, the ultimate duty […]

Subscribe to Litigation Pathfinder

To get the full-text of this Legal Memorandum ... and more!

(Month-to-month and annual subscriptions available)