Given the weather in Calgary lately, with warm and cool days
interspersed with an exceptionally large amount of snow, Calgarians
– and probably individuals all across much of Canada –
should be aware of the current status of the law in regard to
liability for slip-and-falls on real property.
The most recent reported case on this issue in Alberta is
Saunders v Calgary (City) 2007 CarswellAlta 1746. In that case,
Nancy Saunders brought an action against the Brentwood Community
Association (the City of Calgary) after breaking her ankle while
walking on the premises of the community centre operated by the
defendant. The weather leading up to Ms. Saunders' fall was
similar to that in Calgary currently, with a mixture of thawing and
freezing temperatures. The community association failed to clear
snow on their pathways, leading to a build-up of snow surrounding
the community centre. Ms. Saunders fell while walking across the
community centre's lawn in order to avoid the icy pathways.
In that case, the Court of Queen's Bench looked at the
1. Did the community association have a snow removal policy?
2. Should the community association have reasonably foreseen
risk due to their uncleared and icy pathways?
3. Did the community association exercise reasonable care in
ensuring that visitors and individuals walking near the community
centre were not at risk?
The Court found that the community association failed on all
counts, that the community association's negligence led to Ms.
Saunders' injury, and it awarded an unspecified amount of
damages in favour of Ms. Saunders.
What can you (or your business) do to guard against
Aside from a remarkable case in British Columbia – where a
homeowner successfully sued an individual involved in a traffic
collision near the homeowner's house, after the homeowner
slipped on her own sidewalk when returning to her house to call 911
[Bridge v Jo, (1998) 53 BCLR (3d) 338] – the primary onus is
on the homeowner or landowner where the snow and ice has built
In Calgary, Street Bylaw 20M88, section 67 requires that owners
completely remove snow and ice from pathways and sidewalks adjacent
to their property within 24 hours after the snow stops falling.
While following this bylaw may lead a homeowner or landowner to
avoid a fine from the City for the cost of removing snow on the
owned property, following this bylaw will not protect against a
claim of negligence.
In order to best protect yourself and your business against a
claim of negligence, you should look to address the factors
mentioned above in the Saunders case:
1. Develop a snow removal policy for your business;
a. For example, clear any snow build-up at the beginning and end
of the business day; or
b. Hire a snow removal company (ensure the snow removal company
has liability insurance);
2. If there is a reasonably foreseeable risk to passersby (such
as ice or snow buildup throughout the day), address the risk as
soon as reasonably possible;
a. The City of Calgary offers free salt and sand for icy
3. Exercise reasonable care in ensuring that passersby are not
put at risk when on or near your property;
a. Take the time to examine the sidewalks and pathways on your
property to ensure that there is no snow or ice buildup.
An interesting development for landlords arose in Ontario in
2010 (Hunter v Anderson, 2010 BCSC 1037), wherein a tenant
successfully sued a landlord after slipping and falling on icy
stairs leading to the tenant's residence, despite the fact the
tenant had agreed to clear ice and snow from those same stairs in
exchange for a decrease in rent. The Court in Ontario still found
the landlord 25% liable for damages, given that it was the
landlord's ultimate responsibility to ensure the stairway was
cleared properly. Given the results in this case, landlords
(whether commercial or residential) should also exercise reasonable
care in ensuring that their tenants clear ice and snow buildup on
their property, even if there is a contract in place requiring the
tenant to clear snow.
The only surefire way to guard against liability for
slip-and-fall injuries in Canada is likely to avoid owning property
altogether. Barring that, a move to California or Florida may be a
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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