Are you liable if someone slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of your property?

February 08, 2018, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Most of us are diligent in the icy and snowy parts of the year. We try to keep up with the shovelling, sanding and salting to keep our walkways and driveways safe and accessible for ourselves and others. We are aware of how dangerous slips and falls are. If nothing else they hurt, at worst they can cause serious injury and death. We are responsible for peoples safety on our property.

What about the sidewalk in front of your house though? Many municipalities require individual landowners to clear them of ice and snow. What happens if someone slips and falls there? Are you liable? Will you be sued? A recent court ruling determined that there is no common-law or statutory duty on property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks.

Municipalities use a variety of tools to make property owners clear the sidewalks. Many issue fines to landowners for failure to clear within a specified period of time. What happens when someone falls and hurts themselves there due to an uncleared walkway was determined recently.

In 1997 Concetta Bongiardina fell on the sidewalk in front of a house in Vaughan. She was injured in the slip and fall and sued the City. The City denied responsibility and added the adjacent homeowners to the case. The City claimed that it was their responsibility to clear the snow and ice from the sidewalk and it was that snow and ice that created the nuisance and hazard. The City claimed the property owner were in breach of the by-laws requiring them to clear the sidewalk.

The landowners applied to the court for a dismissal of the charges against them arguing that breaching a by-law does not impose responsibility on them for resulting damages. Justice James MacPherson wrote in the trial decision at the Court of Appeal that there is no statutory or common-law duty on property owners to clear ice and snow from public sidewalks. There were two exceptions to this decision

  1. If the owner actually occupies the sidewalk (café, restaurant, grocery merchant stall)
  2. If water flows off the owner’s property creating dangerous sidewalk conditions.

The Court was critical of Ontario municipalities ‘pawning off’ their responsibilities to maintain their sidewalks onto owners or occupiers of land next to the sidewalks. Canadians expect municipal governments to keep roads and sidewalks safe and clear. So, while you may be eligible to be fined for failing to clear the sidewalk, you won’t be responsible if someone falls and hurts themselves on the sidewalk,

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Pedestrian Accidents, Slip and Fall Injury

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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