22 Jun Who is Responsible If You Slip and Fall?

When a person slips and falls, it’s not unusual to want to place the blame on the owner or occupier of the premises where you slipped.   Whether or not an owner/occupier will be responsible for your injury depends on whether or not they breached their duty of care.

The duty of care owed by an occupier is set out in the Occupiers Liability Act, RSBC 1996, c. 337:

3 (1) An occupier of premises owes a duty to take that care that in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that a person, and the person’s property, on the premises, and property on the premises of a person, whether or not that person personally enters on the premises, will be reasonably safe in using the premises.

In order to be successful in your claim, you must prove that some act or failure to act on the part of the owner or occupier resulted in your injury.  And remember, the standard expected of a property owner is one of reasonableness, not perfection.

In Zary v. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2015 BCSC 1145, the Plaintiff injured her right knee when she fell in a washroom at the Granville Island Public Market.  The Plaintiff was an artist and had been selling her art at the Market for six years before the accident, so she was familiar with the washroom she fell in.

The Plaintiff’s evidence was that there was frequently water on the floor of that washroom.  On the day in question, the Plaintiff entered the washroom and didn’t see any water on the floor.  When she opened the door to the first stall and saw water on the floor, she took a step to leave the stall, slipped and hurt her knee.

CMHC put forward evidence concerning the system in place for inspecting and cleaning the washrooms.  The washrooms were swept and mopped every two hours.  Due to high traffic, it was impossible to keep the floors perfectly dry so a bright yellow “Caution: Wet Floors” sign was placed outside the entrance to the washroom.  When janitors attended the washroom for the next scheduled cleaning after the Plaintiff’s fall, they did not notice any unusual amounts of water on the floor.

The Judge agreed that there was water on the floor and that the dampness on the floor caused the Plaintiff’s fall.  However, that in itself was not sufficient to establish liability on the part of CHMC.

The central question was whether CMHC had met its obligation under the Occupiers Liability Act to take reasonable care to insure that persons entering the premises would be reasonably safe.  The Judge found that they had.  Given the nature of the business carried out at the Market and the volume of foot traffic, it was inevitable that there would be some moisture on the floor of that washroom.  The mere presence of water did not constitute an “objectively unreasonable risk of harm”.

So although the Plaintiff’s fall was unfortunate and the injuries she sustained had a significant effect on her, the Judge was unable to find that the fall was caused by an act or omission of CMHC in breach of its obligation under the Occupiers Liability Act.  The Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed and she had to pay CMHC costs.

If you have been involved in a slip and fall, call Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota.  We have the expertise to evaluate whether or not your claim has any merit.

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