How is liability for a slip and fall determined in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Unlike Nova Scotia and PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador does not have occupiers’ liability legislation. This means that occupiers’ liability stems from the case law. The determination of liability generally relies on the principles of negligence of tort law.
In Stacey v. Anglican Churches of Canada, 1999 CanLII 18933 (NLCA), the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal confirmed that a property owner’s duty of care to a lawful visitor on their premises is to take care that is reasonable in the circumstances. This means that the property owner must ensure that the people on the property will be reasonably safe when using the premises for the purposes for which the property owner invited them onto the property.
In Gallant v. Labrador City-Schefferville (Diocese of), 2001 NFCA 22, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal reiterated the test in Stacey. However, noting that the classification of the injured party as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser is no longer relevant; neither is the question of whether there is an unusual danger.
Gallant sets out some general principles:
- Property owners have an obligation to ensure that people who enter their property are reasonably safe;
- The injured party has the burden to prove that the property owner failed to meet the standard of reasonable care (you must point to the property owner’s act or failure to act that caused your injury);
- To avoid liability, the property owner must show that they have a regular regime of inspection, maintenance, and monitoring that is sufficient to achieve a reasonable balance between what is practical in the circumstances and the dangers to those lawfully on the property;
- The property owner is not a guarantor or insurer of the safety of the persons coming on their premises.
In summary, the experience in other jurisdictions where the general law of negligence has been applied to occupiers’ liability does not place undo hardship on the property owner. Generally, the courts examine the procedures used by the property owner to ensure reasonable safety for the visitor. What is reasonable is determined by the facts of each case.
The Stacey decision still holds in Newfoundland and Labrador, meaning the property owner is only responsible for ensuring that their premises is reasonably safe for visitors.
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