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March 30, 2011

Action dismissed due to failure to comply with Municipal Act notice provision

Zogjani v. Toronto (City), [2011] O.J. No. 1002 (S.C.J.)

In this slip and fall case against the City of Toronto, the City brought a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff failed to comply with the 10 day notice period provided by section 44(10) of the Municipal Act. The plaintiff slipped and fell on December 22, 2005 on snow and ice on a Municipal sidewalk. She consulted a lawyer in February 2006 and notice was provided to the City on March 1, 2006. The plaintiff swore that until she met with the lawyer on February 28, 2006, she was not aware of the 10 day notice requirement in section 44. Since the plaintiff failed to comply with section 44(10), it was her onus to show that she fit within subsection 44(12) of the Municipal Act, which provides that the failure to give notice is not a bar to the action if a judge finds that there is reasonable excuse and the Municipality is not prejudiced in its defence.

The City’s argument was that because it did not receive notice of the claim in a timely manner, the City’s investigator was unable to investigate the location promptly and could not observe or record the conditions of the location at the time of the accident. The plaintiff’s response was that snow would have melted in the days immediately following the incident and so even if the 10 day notice period had been met, there was no practical prejudice to the City.

The City’s field investigator swore an Affidavit indicating that he patrolled the area 4 days before the date of loss and 6 days after the date of loss. If he had been notified immediately, he would have been able to recall what the road and sidewalk conditions looked like during his patrols; however, because the City did not receive notice until 2 ½ months later, he was unable to recall what the location looked like at the time of his patrols.

Justice Lauwers was satisfied that the Municipality was practically prejudiced by the effect of the delay on the field investigator’s memory. He granted summary judgment.

At times it may seem that section 44(10) is a limitation period without teeth; however, in the right circumstances and with the right evidence proffered on a motion for summary judgment, section 44(10) can be a useful tool with which to dispose of an action at an early date.

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