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Failure to Install Fire Alarms Not Cause of Injuries

Fire Alarm
Injuries caused by fire can often be prevented by the use of fire alarms, commonsense. However, the Court of Appeal does not accept this as commonsense, and dismissed this renter’s injury appeal on the basis that there was no evidence that the use of a fire alarm would have reduced or eliminated the harm.
In this injury case a fire occurred in the suite rented in Delta, British Columbia by the claimant. He sustained physical injuries in his attempt to rescue their dogs, and alleged psychological injury due to the frightening escape from the fire. He brought this lawsuit alleging that his losses and injuries were caused by the negligent failure to install smoke detectors. The trial judge dismissed the case on the basis that causation had not been proven and this is the appeal.
In dismissing the appeal the Court of Appeal reiterated the legal test for causation in this way:

[16]  As a general rule, a plaintiff in a negligence action cannot succeed unless he shows as a matter of fact he would not have suffered the loss “but for” the defendant’s negligent act. As noted, the appellants say that a trial judge should take a robust, pragmatic approach to determining causation, and that “scientific proof” is not always required: Clements at para. 46.

[17] Both Snell and Clements underscore the importance of establishing a substantial connection between the injury in question and the defendant’s negligence. Summarizing Snell, the Court in Clements said the following (at para. 21):

…The usual requirement of proof of “but for” causation should not be relaxed where the result would be to permit plaintiffs to recover in the absence of evidence connecting the defendant’s fault to the plaintiff’s injury. …

[18]  The trial judge held that the appellants were required to show that “the malfunction of the smoke alarm, or its non-existence, was causally linked to the spread of the fire and the damage caused by the fire” (at para. 54, emphasis added).(Boon v. Mann,2016 BCCA 242)

Watch to find out about how to make a successful slip and fall claim:

 ISSUE: Would a strict liability test be more inequitable to injury claimants and force landlords to install fire alarms?

Tags: Legal Causation, occupier liability, Slip and Fall

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"Renn A. Holness is a gifted lawyer and author to over 1000 legal blog articles. Married father of two daughters, son of a neurosurgeon and founder of Holness Law Group."

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