It has long been held that ordinances such as Indianapolis Municipal Code Section 931-102, which the Davises attempt to rely on for protection here, are not enacted for the protection of individuals using the streets, but rather are for the benefit of the municipality.
Personally, I have taken a tumble about four times over the last month because certain property owners made little or no effort to remove the snow and ice from the sidewalks. I'm still feeling the pain from the last one I took this past week. My parents, who are both in their 70s, struggled to get through the snow piled on the sidewalks along Massachusetts Avenue a couple of weeks ago which you had to cross over in order to get from your parking space to the business you were patronizing. They couldn't understand why the business owners hadn't bothered to clear away the snow so long after it had fallen.
Along Michigan Avenue we have several property owners who never clean the snow or ice from their sidewalks. This forces pedestrians to walk in the heavily travelled Michigan Avenue because the sidewalks are impassable. Not only do your clothes get splashed from the passing cars, you are placed in a very dangerous situation. Last week, a passing van clipped the gym bag I had thrown over my shoulder with its side mirror as I walked to the YMCA at the Athenaeum.
The problem is compounded because the City of Indianapolis, almost without exception, refuses to enforce its own ordinance requiring property owners to keep sidewalks free of snow and ice. I know in the case of one of my neighbors, many of us have complained directly to them about the problem. They just laugh in your face when you bring it up. They don't live in the building, and they don't feel they owe any responsibility to their tenants to remove the snow and ice. Of course, this is the same property owner who deliberately leaves a beat up old pickup truck parked in front of our building for days at a time just because he knows it bothers the people living in the neighborhood.
Today's Star has a story on the decision. It has this quote from the city's chief litigation counsel James Osborn: "Some businesses may read the decision to say they no longer have to clear their sidewalk, but I don't believe it relieves their civic duty." Believe me, these folks feel no civic duty to maintain their sidewalks, and the city isn't helping matters by refusing to fine those who don't.
You can read more at the Indiana Law Blog, which also provides the link to the court's decision, by clicking here.