How is liability for a slip and fall determined in Ontario?
In Ontario, parties determine liability using the Occupiers’ Liability Act. Property owners must meet the standard of being reasonable and prudent, owing a duty to ensure that people on their property are reasonably safe by protecting them from foreseeable harm.
There is a two-part test for cases of this nature, shown by Dhaliwal v Premier Fitness Clubs Inc., 2012 ONSC 4711. There are two elements to consider when determining if a property owner is liable for breaching their standard of care:
- whether they implemented a reasonable maintenance system; and
- whether they adhered to that system on the date of the slip and fall.
Did the property owner have a reasonable maintenance system?
The first step is to determine if the occupier had a reasonable maintenance system to keep people on the premises safe from foreseeable harm.
As outlined in Chan v Erin Mills Town Centre, 2005 CarswellOnt 6741, the standard of care is one of reasonableness in the circumstances. This means that high-risk areas, such as bathrooms, often require greater vigilance and better systems because the risk of wet floors in these areas is more significant, increasing the likelihood that someone will slip and fall. If you slipped and fell in a high-risk area, the property owner’s maintenance system would require greater vigilance. To avoid liability, a property owner would have to show that their maintenance system addressed the greater likelihood of someone slipping.
Did the property owner follow its reasonable maintenance system?
The second step is to determine whether the property owner actually followed their maintenance system on the date of the accident. This means that the property owner must provide evidence that they executed their maintenance system on the day you fell. This evidence can include a maintenance log detailing what the occupier did to clean the premises on that day. If the occupier can’t provide this evidence, they are likely liable for your injuries.
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