Trips and slips are a part of life, but what happens when you slip and fall due to someone else’s negligence? Countless people are injured each year in slip and fall accidents by, say, slipping on a wet floor or tripping on an icy sidewalk. Concerningly, if you are injured in this way you may not be able to recover compensation from the responsible party depending on where and how the fall occurs.

A case recently heard at the Supreme Court of Canada will soon provide further clarity in this area. This case could have a big impact on a claimant’s ability to hold municipalities accountable in slip and fall accidents depend on what the court decides. Regardless of the outcome, this case is a great reminder of the challenges claimants face when suing a municipality for an injury and underscores the need to hire a skilled personal injury lawyer if you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of a slip and fall accident.

Snowbank Creates Slip and Fall Hazard

The claimant in City of Nelson v. Taryn Joy Marchi was trying to get from her parked car to the sidewalk, but a snowbank stood in her way. She slipped and injured herself while trying to get through it. The claimant sued the City of Nelson (where the accident occurred), arguing that the municipal snow crew (who had created the snowbank while clearing the streets after a heavy snowfall) should have left openings in the snowbanks so pedestrians could get to the sidewalk safely.

The court disagreed with the claimant. Municipalities are immune from liability so long as the guiding policy (here, the City of Nelson’s policy on snow clearing) was created in good faith. Following appeals by both the claimant and the City of Nelson, the case has made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Can You Sue a Municipality for a Slip and Fall Accident?

In Canada, municipalities are not responsible for any injuries that arise if the policy that guided the wrongdoing was made “in good faith” (in Ontario, you can find this rule enshrined in section 450 of the Municipal Act). So, by this logic, the court previously found that the claimant could not be successful in her claim because the municipality had created and followed its snow-clearing policy in good faith. To paraphrase, the term “good faith” means that something was done sincerely, without any intention to take advantage of or defraud others.

However, the claimant, in this case, is arguing that the policy was not the cause of her injury, but rather, the way the snow crew handled the snow clearing. The City of Nelson’s policy didn’t provide direction on where snow should be placed when it is plowed, or whether city workers should create access for pedestrians trying to get around the snowbanks – therefore, she claims, it was up to the city workers to make decisions about how and where to move the snow. These kinds of “operational” decisions are not immune from liability and a claimant can sue if such decisions caused their injuries.

The big question for the appeal, then, is whether the policy or its implementation “caused” the claimant’s injuries.

What This Decision Means for Personal Injury Claimants

While we don’t know what the Supreme Court of Canada will decide yet, this decision could have a significant impact on the rules around the liability of municipalities across Canada for injuries sustained in slip and fall accidents.

Also note that there are specific procedural requirements for suing a municipality, including different notice requirements from other types of personal injury claims. If you have been injured due to the negligence of a municipality or other party, it is imperative to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure you are in compliance with the proper procedural requirements.   

Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

A personal injury claim can make even the strongest person feel lost and without recourse. At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers understand your rights and will work tirelessly to preserve them. If you have been injured due to the negligence of a municipality, let us focus on the legal side of your claim so you can focus on what matters most – getting better.

Our lawyers recognize that no two injury claims are the same, which is why we give each claim the personalized attention needed to protect your rights and bring about the best possible outcome. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our skilled personal injury lawyers.


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