Understanding Duty of Care For Slip and Fall Injuries on Municipal Property

If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, on municipal property, there are several crucial steps to take before making legal claims. Here’s everything you need to do.

Backpack on ground with person falling in backdrop
Darcy Romaine

Darcy Romaine

February 27, 2023 02:00 PM

Did you know that property owners are required to clear ice and snow from their sidewalks to avoid causing injury to others? This also includes adjacent municipal sidewalks, which must be cleared of snow, hail, or rain within a 12-hour window.

The Occupiers’ Liability Act dictates property owners' and occupiers' responsibility in keeping pedestrians safe, holding them liable for any injuries suffered on their properties due to negligence. This includes slip-and-fall injuries caused by snow or ice.

Subsection 44(1) of the Municipal Act, on the other hand, dictates that municipalities are not liable for personal injuries caused by snow or ice except in cases of gross negligence. It is worth noting, however, that the law has not defined what constitutes "gross negligence" per se. Case law has yet to develop a clear definition, so a case-by-case approach is taken in most instances.

What Constitutes "Gross Negligence" in Slip-and-fall Injuries Due to Snow and Ice?

The Ontario Court of Appeal has stated in Crinson v. Toronto (City) that gross negligence constitutes more than a breach of duty of care. As such, a municipality's gross negligence will entirely depend on each case's facts. In Crinson v. Toronto (City), for example, it was found that the City failed to address concerns regarding icy sidewalks for 34 hours, resulting in the plaintiff suffering a fractured ankle during a slip-and-fall injury.

While the trial judge ruled that the City was not grossly negligent, the Court of Appeal found that the city's inaction and lack of explanation regarding such inaction did constitute gross negligence. As per the Court of Appeal, “it has long been the law in Ontario that if a municipality permits a slippery, icy sidewalk in a busy area of the City to remain unprotected or ignores it altogether and someone is injured, that would constitute gross negligence.”

In Johnson v. Lewin, a case handled by Boland and Romaine LLP, the plaintiff slipped and fell on ice that had accumulated on the apron of a residential street in Newmarket. Before approaching our firm, the plaintiff already had a prior lawyer who had mistakenly released the Town from liability.

In such a scenario, the firm had to prove the case against both the municipality and the plaintiff’s prior lawyer. This entailed acquiring evidence from homeowners and a climatologist to establish that the ice had persisted on the property’s apron for at least five days. Since Newmarket had received complaints about the snow and ice on its sidewalks but failed to take necessary action, the court determined that Newmarket indeed owed the plaintiff a duty of care.

In addition, the plaintiff’s prior lawyer was also deemed negligent by extension after having released the Town despite the injury suffered by the plaintiff. The plaintiff was awarded full compensation for his injuries.

What to Do if You’ve Been Injured in a Slip and Fall on Municipal Property

If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, it is crucial to establish that the property owner failed to keep the premises safe for pedestrians.

Here’s everything you need to do.

Report the Accident

If the accident happened on public property, you must report it to the town or city as soon as possible. Failure to report a slip and fall incident immediately may lead to juries and insurers questioning the legitimacy of your claim, so it’s best to be hasty in reporting such accidents.

Gather Evidence Such as Photos or Videos

If you can, take photos and videos of the accident scene immediately or ask a companion to document the scene for you. It’s best to take photos before leaving the scene and ensure you have photos covering different angles. Also, secure the names and contact details of people who may have witnessed the incident, as these will come in handy if your claim goes to trial.

Seek Legal Counsel

If your slip and fall accident has caused you significant stress, injury, or loss of income, an injury lawyer experienced in municipal liability law can help you begin the process of filing a lawsuit and building a solid case.

For more information on municipal liability and other areas of expertise, visit our website:

Headline Image: iStock/Ivan-balvan

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