City found liable in slip-and-fall on sidewalk

Personal Injury Blog

In reasons for judgment released today, the court in Binette v. Salmon Arm (City), 2017 BCSC 302, found the City of Salmon Arm liable in a slip-and-fall case where the plaintiff was injured after tripping on a piece of metal sticking out of a city sidewalk.  The piece of metal was what remained of a crosswalk sign that had been severed from its base at some point in the past.  A city employee had previously discovered the severed sign in the area, but was not able to determine where it had come from.  The employee decided to await the spring snow melt and then revisit the general area once the sidewalks were clear of snow, in order to determine where the sign had come from and repair it.  In finding the city liable, Mr. Justice G.P. Weatherill said as follows:

[21]         The Policy, created by the City, required it to use its “best efforts”, all things considered, having regard to the City’s resource constraints and the hazardous nature of the Sign, to remediate the problem.

[22]         The evidence satisfies me that the City used its best efforts around the time the Sign was discovered by Mr. Graham in the snow in a resident’s yard in the general area of the Sidewalk to determine where the Sign came from. The evidence also satisfies me that Mr. Graham’s efforts at that time were reasonable and that despite those efforts, he was unable to locate where the sign came from.

[23]         However, Mr. Graham then misunderstood the Policy. He says that when he could not locate where the Sign came from, “[a]s per the City’s standard practice, and because this was not a stop sign or white cross walk sign”, he stored the Sign until the location for the Sign could be determined in the spring when the snow melted.

[24]         The City knew that the Sign was missing from its intended location and, I am satisfied, would or should have known from looking at the end of the recovered Telespar Post that it had been sheared off from the Base located somewhere on a sidewalk near a crosswalk.

[25]         The photographs taken by Mr. Nelson the day after the Fall show very jagged and hazardous ends sticking up from the Base. The photographs also make it clear that the snow had melted from the area some time before the Fall. There is no snow in sight.

[26]         I conclude that the end of the Telespar Post found by Mr. Graham months earlier probably had matching jagged edges that should have alerted Mr. Graham and the City that the Base was still attached to a sidewalk likely in the general area of where the Sign was found. If using “best efforts” was the standard, this knowledge on Mr. Graham’s part should have moved the matter of locating and remediating the Sign and Base to the priority of immediacy as soon as the snow had melted. At a minimum, “best efforts” must include “some efforts”. Instead, the Sign remained in storage until after the City was notified of the Fall, despite the snow having been melted from the Sidewalk.

[27]         Given Mr. Graham’s knowledge of the Sign and what I infer he knew of the Telespar Post’s condition, I find that he did not follow the Policy by using his “best efforts” to locate and replace the Sign. Indeed, the evidence is that after he placed the Sign in storage, he made no effort until the City received notice of the Fall on March 18, 2013.

[28]         The plaintiff has the burden of proving all of the elements of the negligence claim on a balance of probabilities. Weighing the evidence, I conclude that the plaintiff has met that burden. I find that the City fell short in the implementation of its Policy and the plaintiff suffered harm as a result

The full decision can be found here:  http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/03/2017BCSC0302.htm