03 Dec Strata Not Responsible For Resident’s Fall Down Stairs

In Goddard v. Bayside Property Services Ltd., 2018 BCSC 1498, the Plaintiff brought an action claiming he suffered injuries in a slip and fall. He fell on a wooden exterior staircase at the rear of his condominium building.  It was the Defendants’ position that the Plaintiff failed to satisfy the burden to establish liability on their part.

The Plaintiff did not know what caused him to fall. At the time, he was conducting a personal fire drill using his cell phone to time how long it took him to reach the various fire exits in the building. He recalled putting his phone away and grabbing the railing of the stairs as he was preparing to descend. He has no memory of what happened as he descended the stairs and does not recall how he ended up at the bottom of the stairs.

The Defendants provided evidence that the stairs in this case were regularly inspected and cleaned on a weekly basis by a staff member. The stairs were also inspected and cleared of debris such as snow twice each month, power washed in August of each year, and repainted every two years.

In addition, various members of the strata council inspected the property with the Plaintiff a few days before the accident and no defect of the stairs had been noted. At no time prior to the incident did the custodian or any other resident of the premises ever report that there was an issue respecting the condition or stability of the stairs.

The Plaintiff brought this action under the Occupiers Liability Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 337 [the “Act”] and, in the alternative, in negligence at common law. The burden of proof of establishing the legal liability of the Defendants rested on the Plaintiff.

The standard of care under the Act and at common law for negligence is the same: it is to protect others from an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. The Plaintiff was required to prove on a balance of probabilities what condition or hazard caused his trip and fall. He then had to prove that the condition or hazard existed due to a breach of duty by the Defendants. The Plaintiff was unable to do so.

The cause of the fall was not established on the evidence the Plaintiff called and although he had a theory about what caused his fall, Courts are not allowed to speculate in respect to a theory. He was unable to establish that the Defendant failed to take reasonable care to ensure he was reasonably safe. Since the Plaintiff had not met the onus which he bore under either the Act or the common law, his action was dismissed.