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Slip and Fall on a Public Sidewalk – Who Owes the Duty of Care?


In this personal injury case the injury claimant slipped and fell on a public sidewalk owned by the municipality of Summerland in British Columbia. The sidewalk separates Angus Street in Summerland from a senior’s housing facility where the claimant lived.(Scheck v. Parkdale Place Housing Society,2018 BCSC 938)

The issue was whether the  senior’s housing facility, Parkdale, owed the claimant a duty of care on the day she fell. The senior’s housing facility denied it was an “occupier” within the meaning of the Occupier Liability Act and when the claimant fell it said it owed no duty of care and no liability can attach to it.

The senior’s housing facility said that can be decided on summary application, under Supreme Court Rule 9-7, without the need to consider whether the steps it took to clear the sidewalk of snow and ice was reasonable.

The senior’s housing facility relied on the definition of “occupier” in section 1 of the Act and said it was not in physical possession of the sidewalk and had no control over the condition of the sidewalk, activities conducted on it and those allowed on the sidewalk.

The judge agreed and concluded that the housing facility did not have physical possession of the municipality’s sidewalk and owed no duty to the public using the municipal sidewalk. 

The claim against the municipality was adjourned to allow the parties to lead evidence about the nature of the snow or ice on the sidewalk and whether it lead to her slip and fall. 

Homeowners Duty to Clear City Sidewalks of Ice and Snow

Is there a common law duty on the owner of a property to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to the property? The answer in most cases is “No”.  A homeowner has a duty to ensure that the property is maintained in a reasonable condition so that persons entering the property are not injured. If the homeowner complies with this duty, they should be free from liability for injuries arising from failure to maintain municipally owned streets and sidewalks. The snow and ice accumulating on public sidewalks and the potholes on the street in front of the house are the legal responsibility of the municipality, not the adjacent property owner.

The court concluded that the senior’s housing facility owed no duty to the claimant with respect to Summerland’s sidewalk and the claim against the housing facility was dismissed.

Read more about slip and fall injuries on sidewalks with ice and snow in Vancouver.

Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B

Tags: duty of care, Legal Causation, occupier liability, Rule 9-7 — Summary Trial, summary trial

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