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April 24, 2013

City Not Liable for Icy Boulevard

The City of London has successfully defended a slip and fall action that occurred following a winter storm.  In Bondy v. London (City), [2013] O.J. No. 1281 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff slipped and fell on the paved portion of the boulevard abutting the city sidewalk, which was used to access her driveway. The night before the plaintiff fell there was a heavy freezing rain storm, which continued throughout the night and into the morning.  Schools were closed and radio announcements recommended citizens stay off roads and sidewalks. The adjacent property owned salted the sidewalk but not the boulevard. The City decided to call in its sidewalk equipment operators at midnight and they were deployed at 4:30 a.m.  In the area of the plaintiff's fall, operators were deployed from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the route taking 12-14 hours to complete.

The case involved a number of issues, including whether the boulevard qualified as an untravelled portion of the highway, whether adjacent property owner was liable for failing to salt the boulevard, whether the Municipal Act or Occupier's Liability Act applied, and the standard of care for the municipality.  Justice Gorman held that the boulevard was not part of the untravelled portion of the highway.  In addition, the City could not deflect liability onto the adjacent property owner in the circumstances, as they did not exercise control over the area.

Ultimately, Justice Gorman held that the City had met its standard of care.  It had complied with the Minimum Maintenance Standards for icy roadways. The plaintiff was entitled to expect a highway to be in a good condition, but "when the weather is so treacherous as to require the broadcast of public warnings, one travels at one's peril". Although the action was dismissed, the decision that the boulevard was not part of the untravelled portion of the highway poses a problem: are municipalities now expected to salt these areas?

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