Sometimes a fall is simply an accident. In a recent Ontario
Superior Court decision,
Nandlal v. Toronto Transit Commission, 2014 ONSC 4760, a judge
held that it is not reasonable to expect a public transport
occupier to continuously and immediately clean up after its patrons
if they leave debris on stairs.
Sarojanie Nandlal slipped and fell on a flight of stairs at a
busy transport hub in Toronto for rapid transit trains, buses, and
a subway. After getting off a train, she moved toward a stairwell
that connects the rapid transit platform with the bus and subway
platforms. She slipped and fell as she walked down the stairs,
breaking her clavicle. She then brought an action for negligence
against the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), alleging that the TCC
breached its duty of care under the Ontario Occupier's
Liability Act. The TTC responded by bringing a motion for summary
judgment to dismiss Nandlal's action.
Nandlal believed that she slipped on debris at the top of the
stairs. She had seen debris in the transport hub that morning and
had frequently seen debris there in the past. Yet, she did not see
debris where she fell on the day of the accident. She did not know
what she stepped on, but believed that she stepped on something. No
witnesses could confirm seeing any debris on the stairs. The
stairway tiles were non-slip and did not need repairs.
Nandlal needed to provide evidence that the steps were slippery
and had debris. Even if she could establish this, her case would
only succeed if the TTC failed to show that it took reasonable care
to ensure that Nandlal and others were reasonably safe from the
Nandlal, however, failed to provide any direct evidence that
there was debris on the stairs. She only provided a belief.
Although she was alert and walked with care, she did not see any
debris. Justice Perell found that she only offered a subjective
rationalization. Seeing debris in other parts of the station that
day and in the past does not lead to the inference that there was a
debris hazard at the top of the stairs on the day of the
Even if there was debris at the top of the stairs, Nandlal did
not establish that the TTC failed to meet its duty under the
Occupier's Liability Act to keep the station reasonably safe
for its patrons. The TTC had assigned a janitor to be on duty
exclusively at the transport hub at the time of the accident. His
tasks included responding to problems and performing a regularly
scheduled cleaning of the area. The janitor had scanned the entire
area for hazards requiring immediate attention at the beginning of
his shift. He then began his regular maintenance and cleaning
Attorney General v. Ranger, Justice Perell held that it is
important for a court to use common sense when applying the
Occupier's Liability Act. Falls at bus terminals, airports,
seaports, train stations, and subway stations occur without someone
being responsible. Falls occur on stairs everywhere because they
are just accidents. It was not reasonable or practicable to expect
the TTC to continuously and immediately cleanup after its patrons
who litter its premises, including its staircases.
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