Snowplowers still liable for slips on uncleared pavement

By ANTHONY HARVEY

Capital News Service

LANSING—Commercial snowplowing and de-icing companies will remain responsible for anyone who slips and falls on freshly plowed properties and parking lots.

Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia, who owns Yonker’s Landscaping Inc., had introduced a bill to remove the responsibility from snowplowing and de-icing services.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, recently voted against passing the measure on to the Senate.

Contracts drawn up by property owners generally place two responsibilities on the snowplowing contractors: to service the property when called and to assume responsibility for patrons who slip and fall on the property.

Supporters were disappointed the bill didn’t move to the full Senate.

“The Senate should’ve push through,” said Linda Clogg, part owner and operator of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates in Wixom. “The state sends a message about if the bill has no incentives, it will not endorse it.”
Opponents said the state should not be involved in the negotiation between businesses. But supporters say it’s not unprecedented.

“The state has interfered when the contracts are taking advantage of either party involved, and this would be one instance,” said Kevin Gilbride, executive director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association.

Supporters said snowplow contracts are difficult to understand.

“With these contracts, the language is written in such as way that there seems to be no benefit of insurances companies offering coverage to snowplowing companies,” said Phillip Hoyt, a Bloomfield HIlls insurance agent who insures snowplow contractors.

Snowplow operators say businesses take advantage of such contracts.

“We have been in business for 35 years, and we see this all the time,” Clogg said. “(Service receivers) want to go with the cheapest option and rush into a contract with a company sticking them with the liabilities of slip-and-falls.”

The bill had proposed instead to void those clauses and allow the contractors to come out to the property when needed. If the contractor provides the services, the property owner would be responsible for accidents due to the snow or ice.

Yonker’s office did not respond to requests for an interview.