Case Review: Occupier's Liability Claims (Slater v City of Courtenay)
Claims under the Occupiers Liability Act generally arise when an individual is injured on the property of another. Most commonly, we see these claims with respect to slip and falls, whether it be on ice, water, or some other hazard.
On August 25, 2021, Justice Saunders rendered Reasons for Judgment in Slater v City of Courtenay, 2021 BCSC 1678. The claim of the injured Plaintiff was dismissed, with costs to the Defendant municipality.
In Slater, the 23-year old plaintiff had been drinking and made a decision to slide down a stair railing rather than walk down the steps of the stairs. In doing so, her left index finger became caught in a "pinch point" where the railing met a horizontal metal bar, resulting in a significant injury to the finger. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was negligent, largely on the basis of failing to inspect and/or maintain the handrail.
The below photograph shows the staircase where the incident occurred.
The Occupiers Liability Act requires that an occupier of a premises (in this case the City of Courtenay) take that care that is reasonable in all of the circumstances of the case to see that a person on the premises will be reasonably safe in using the premises. The standard is reasonableness, however, and not perfection.
In dismissing the claim of the plaintiff, the Court found that the handrail could have been used safely if it was used as it was intended (to help support people walking up and down the stairs). There was no obligation on the defendant to have foreseen abnormal use of the railing, such as someone sliding down it.
Travis Sippel and John Bradbury of Bradbury Sippel Law Corporation are based in Nanaimo, British Columbia and offer personal injury and insurance defence services across British Columbia and Canada.