Slip and Fall: Who’s To Blame?

Slip and fall incidents happen more times than you think, especially depending on weather conditions. One minute you’re casually strolling up the steps of the medical building for your annual physical, the next minute you take a tumble and bump your forehead against the concrete because the steps were slippery from the rain or icy due to snow.

Most people’s reaction is to pursue some kind of legal action in order to find compensation for their alleged injuries. However, as the plaintiff it is important to remember that you first need to establish there was negligence on the part of the defendant (in these slip and fall cases, it’s usually the property manager that gets named).

Negligence is the failure to exercise the care that a reasonable and prudent person would exercise in any circumstance. Generally speaking, when someone acts in a careless way and causes an injury to another person, under the legal principle of “negligence” the careless person will be legally liable for any resulting harm. 

There are four elements that need to be established to show that the ‘defendant’ acted negligently.

  1. The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances.
  2. The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a reasonable manner.
  3. It can be established that it was the defendant’s actions (or inaction) that actually caused the plaintiff’s injury; and
  4. The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant’s actions.

If these four elements can be established as having occurred from a plaintiff’s perspective, then a legal case could be made. However, like that old saying time is of the essence, the window to file an action may get narrowed if a recently proposed law gets passed.

Bill 118, the Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act, which is a private members bill and not a government proposal, would give plaintiffs only 10 days to give notice of slip-and-fall claim.

The act currently allows up to two years for plaintiffs to give notice after a slip and fall. But a plaintiff would still be able to proceed with their lawsuit if they convince the judge there is a “reasonable excuse” and the judge finds the defendant is not prejudiced in their defence.

“The 10-day limitation period proposed is not intended to give a plaintiff 10 days to file a statement of claim in court. Instead, it is intended to give a plaintiff 10 days to put a defendant on notice,” said PC MPP Doug Downey.

Critics contend that a 10 day time frame is not enough time for someone to file a claim when they are dealing with doctors’ appointments and medical treatments, as well as lack of information such as who to file the claim against, like landlord’s name and address.

The bill was referred to the Ontario Legislature’s committee dealing with private members bills on June 6 but no date for public hearings has yet been announced. The committee is unlikely to convene before the legislature resumes sitting in October.