Third Party Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case in OntarioJune 13, 2019
Toronto is known for being a beautiful, walk-able city. But despite the pedestrian-friendly reputation, there are some public spaces frequented by pedestrians that can fall into disrepair. This is especially true in the winter months, when otherwise well-maintained sidewalks become impassable due to ice. For many, traversing dangerous icy sidewalks is necessary to come or go from work, school, or other appointments.
But if you fall and hurt yourself due to improper ice removal or the failure to address icy conditions at all, who is liable for your injuries? In many cases, your first thought would be to sue the contractor hired by the city to keep the sidewalk clear. It is worth noting, however, that you may have a third party claim against the city as well. Read on below to learn how third-party negligence on the city’s behalf could give you a cause of action.
Third Party Negligence Claims Against the City
Injuries caused by slips and falls on public sidewalks have been a point of contention for years now. In fact, in a 2009 lawsuit it was alleged that the City of Toronto intentionally ignored issues with some public walkways, including snow and ice removal, because it was less expensive to simply settle 3rd party negligence claims from the falls.
The most important thing to note about cases involving a slip and fall on a public sidewalk is that the courts require a much higher burden when suing the city as opposed to suing a private third party like a contractor. In most cases, to recover on your injury claim you only need to prove that the behavior by the part that caused your injury was negligent. In other words, if they acted contrary to how a person taking an ordinary standard of care would, they are responsible for your injuries.
When it comes to claims against a municipality, you must show that the city was grossly negligent in failing to address the issue that led to your slip and fall. In many Ontario cases, this involves ice or snow. Although you have a case against a private entity like a contractor if you can show that they acted negligently, you must prove the city was grossly negligent in order to recover from them.
This is because all municipalities are covered by the Municipal Act. According to section 284(4) of the act, “except in cases of gross negligence, a corporation is not liable for a personal injury caused by snow or ice on a sidewalk.” According to the law, to show the city was grossly negligent you must prove they acted with flagrant disregard to the ordinary standard of care.
What is gross negligence?
That standard may sound difficult to prove in a third-party insurance claim, but cases like the 2009 lawsuit described above are evidence that courts don’t always give municipalities a pass. In that case, titled Guy v. Toronto, the City was found to be grossly negligent for failing to monitor a public alley that was popular among pedestrians due to its proximity to a number of homes, businesses, and universities. The court found that the city was negligent in failing to inspect the alleyway for ice buildup beneath the snow. It also determined that when the city did take action to remove the snow, it didn’t use the most effective methods available. This led to unsafe ice buildup that could have been removed or prevented. According to the court, this amounted to gross negligence by the City of Toronto.
The case described here only discusses how a city could be responsible for your slip and fall injuries. But what about other entities, like the owners of property adjacent to the sidewalk? What about city planners or the engineers that designed the sidewalk itself? Could they also be liable for a third-party negligence claim.
These issues are beyond the scope of this article, but we would love to hear from you with any questions you have about liability for sidewalk slip and fall accidents.
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