In a recent case, Lyng v. Ontario Place Corporation, 2024 ONCA 23, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a $175,000 award for personal injury against Ontario Place. This award followed an incident where an individual at a concert who had consumed alcohol tore his anterior cruciate ligament after jumping and landing awkwardly. 

In this blog post, we’ll explain the decision in Lyng and what it means for personal injury claimants. 

The Facts in Lyng v. Ontario Place Corporation

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was a 21-year-old attending a concert at Ontario Place with his friend. It had rained heavily during the day. Following the concert, the plaintiff and his friend intended to exit the venue through the main gates, the most direct route to their destination. However, the pedestrian bridge at the exit was closed, and security guards were preventing concertgoers from exiting at that location. 

The respondent, his friend, and other concertgoers opted instead to descend a wet, slippery hill adjacent to the pedestrian bridge. Notably, the plaintiff was wearing flip-flops and consumed alcohol at the concert. There were no barricades, warning sides, or other features restricting access to the hill. While descending, the plaintiff slipped, sustaining a severe knee injury that required surgery. 

Following the accident, the plaintiff brought an action against Ontario Place for his injuries. 

The Trial Judge’s Decision 

At trial, the court found that Ontario Place was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.2. This legislation requires property owners and occupiers in Ontario to take reasonable care to ensure visitors to their premises are kept safe. So, when a visitor is injured due to a dangerous or unsafe condition on the property that the owner or occupier knew, or ought to have known, was dangerous or unsafe, that visitor may bring a personal injury claim against the property owner and occupiers for the resulting damages. 

Namely, the court found that because Ontario Place had blocked entry to the bridge, was aware that the wet, slipper hill was a hazard, and could have, but did not, warn concertgoers of the risk or place barriers preventing entry to the hill, they were liable for the plaintiff’s resulting injuries. 

However, the court also found that the plaintiff was partially without fault. The court found that the plaintiff did not slip on the hill; rather, he jumped and tore his ACL at the bottom of the hill. As a result, the court found that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and apportioned 25% liability to him. Ultimately, the plaintiff was awarded approximately $175,000 in damages. 

Ontario Place Appealed the Personal Injury Decision

Ontario Place appealed the trial judge’s decision, raising several grounds for appeal. This blog post will only address the grounds of appeal dealing with liability. 

The Trial Judge Considered a Theory of Liability Outside the Case

At trial, the judge found that the plaintiff’s fall and resulting knee injury were caused by his jumping near the bottom of the hill. Nevertheless, he found Ontario Place liable insofar as their failure to address the dangers on their property set off a “train of events” that led to the plaintiff injuring himself, which, Ontario Place argued, had not been addressed in the pleadings or the parties’ submissions at trial. Ontario Place argued that, given the finding that the plaintiff’s actions caused his injury, the trial judge should have dismissed the action. 

The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, finding that this theory of liability was raised in the pleadings and addressed during trial through argument and cross-examination. 

The Trial Judge Erred in His Causation Analysis 

Ontario Place raised three grounds of appeal relating to the trial judge’s finding of causation:

  • Ontario Place argued that the trial judge erred in finding that Ontario Place’s actions caused the resulting accident. 
  • Ontario Place argued that the trial judge erred in finding that Ontario Place breached its duty under s. 3 of Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.2, as wet grass was not an unusual danger. 
  • Ontario Place argued that the plaintiff was “the author of his own misfortune.” 

The Trial Judge Erred in Finding that Ontario Place’s Actions Caused the Resulting Accident

Ontario Place argued that the trial judge erred in finding that Ontario Place’s actions caused the resulting accident, as there was no substantial connection between the plaintiff’s injuries and what Ontario Place did or did not do. 

The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding no error in the trial judge’s reasoning that would warrant intervention. The court noted that determining causation is a factual finding that should not be interfered with unless there is an obvious error with the analysis. It was reasonable for the trial judge to find that Ontario Place’s actions had set off a “train of events” resulting in the plaintiff injuring himself on the wet hill and that Ontario Place knew of the hazard and could have easily corrected it. 

The Trial Judge Erred in Finding That Ontario Place Breached Its Duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act

Section 3 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.2 requires owners or occupiers of premises to “take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on the premises, and the property brought on the premises by those persons are reasonably safe while on the premises.” 

Ontario Place argued that occupiers should be allowed to take realistic and impractical precautions and protect against every possible danger. Therefore, from its perspective, wet grass caused by rainfall was not such an unusual danger that Ontario Place should have been expected to warn visitors about it. 

The Court of Appeal disagreed, noting that by failing to erect barriers to prevent concertgoers from going down the hill – and not even warning concertgoers to avoid the hill, given it was a potential hazard – the trial judge properly found that Ontario Place had breached its duty to take reasonable care to protect its visitors. 

The Trial Judge Should Have Found That the Plaintiff Was the Author of His Own Misfortune

Ontario Place argued that the trial judge should have found that the plaintiff was the author of his misfortune and dismissed the action because, at the time of the accident, the plaintiff had consumed alcohol and jumped down a wet hill in flip-flops. 

The Court of Appeal disagreed, noting that the trial judge did find the plaintiff partially responsible for his injuries and that causation is not an “all or nothing” assessment whereby a case should be dismissed when a plaintiff is found partly responsible for the accident or their resulting injuries. In any event, the Court of Appeal did not identify an error in the trial judge’s causation analysis. 

Conclusions on the Ontario Place Personal Injury Case

The Court of Appeal’s decision is a great reminder that the duty to prevent harm against visitors on your property is highly contextual. As the Court of Appeal pointed out, erecting barriers on the patch of grass in question or warning concertgoers of the danger may have been enough to discharge Ontario Place’s duty to protect concertgoers and – possibly – avoid liability in this case. As a result, regardless of how an accident happened or your perception of fault, it’s crucial to speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer following an accident to understand your rights and explore potential avenues of resolution. 

Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP’s Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers for Representation in Slip and Fall Injury Claims 

Tierney Stauffer LLP’s skilled personal injury lawyers will fight for your rights while you recover from a slip and fall injury. Slips, trips, and falls often mean a long and expensive road to recovery, and we help clients who have been wronged by the negligence of owners, occupiers, and other negligent parties get the compensation they deserve. 
If you need assistance with a slip and fall injury or other personal injury, 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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