Enter your email address for updates:

August 27, 2014

Slip and Fall Action Dismissed on Summary Judgment Motion

In Occupier's Liability cases, it is important to remember that occupiers are not insurers.

In Nandlal v. Toronto Transit Commission, 2014 ONSC 4760 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff alleged she fell on debris on the stairs in a subway station.  At her examination for discovery she testified she slipped on floor tiles.  She could not describe what she fell on and there were no witnesses.  A janitor was assigned to the station and followed a detailed schedule of regular maintenance and cleaning.

Justice Perell held that a plaintiff must pinpoint some act or omission on the part of the occupier that caused the plaintiff's injury.  The Occupier's Liability Act does not impose strict liability and the presence of a hazard does not lead inevitably to the conclusion that the occupier has breached its duty.  The occupier does not have to remove every possible danger; the standard of care is one of reasonableness, not perfection. 

Justice Perell allowed the TTC's summary judgment motion and dismissed the claim.  The plaintiff could not prove a hazard existed, and the evidence was that TTC took steps to make its premises as safe as in all the circumstances was reasonable.  He used a common sense approach:

[29]           It is important for a court to use common sense when applying the statute: (Canada) Attorney General v. Ranger, supra, at para. 34. Falls at bus terminals, airports, seaports, train stations, subway stations, occur without someone being responsible or with the responsibility resting with someone other than the occupier of the property. Falls occur on stairs found everywhere without anybody being responsible for what is just an accident. It is not reasonable or even practicable to impose an obligation on the TTC to be in a position to continuously and immediately cleanup after its patrons who litter the TTC premises including its staircases.  

August 20, 2014

The Test for Catastrophic Impairment

A recent decision by the Divisional Court in Ontario provides a plaintiff-friendly interpretation of the test for catastrophic impairment under the SABS.

In Security National Insurance Co. v Hodges, 2014 ONSC 3627 (Div. Ct.), GCS scored administered within 30 minutes of the accident were 11.  He underwent surgery the day after the accident and scores fell to 3 while he was intubated, but rose to 10 once the trachea was removed. Roughly three days following the accident – and while still under the influence of medication – several GCS tests were administered and resulted in scores of 9.  MRI and CT scans done at the time suggested that, while Mr. Hodges had suffered a brain injury from the accident, the extent of the injury was quite limited. GCS tests administered over the following days showed continuing improvement and the final GCS test indicated no impairment in consciousness.

The insurer denied the plaintiff's application for catastrophic impairment.  The arbitrator found that the plaintiff met the test for catastrophic impairment and this finding was affirmed under appeal to FSCO.  The insurer appealed to the Divisional Court. 

In upholding the FSCO decision, the Divisional Court stated that what constitutes a reasonable period of time to conduct the GCS test should be determined on a case-by-case basis. It found that, in this case, the test was conducted within a reasonable period of time, given that the injured individual was still experiencing fluctuating levels of consciousness at the time of the test. The court rejected the argument that the GCS score had to have “prognostic value,” saying that this would turn the legal test for catastrophic impairment into a medical test. The court also rejected the argument that the statute required that the brain injury be the sole cause of the score of 9 or less, saying: “It is sufficient that the person claiming catastrophic impairment had any brain injury causing any impairment….”

It will be interesting to see if Hodges results in a greater number of applications for a CAT designation.  Of course, the claimant still needs to show entitlement to benefits even if successful.

August 6, 2014

Court Grants Summary Judgment Against Party Bringing Motion

Courts seem to be embracing the "culture shift" advocated by the Supreme Court in Hryniak.

In King Lofts Toronto I Ltd. v. Emmons, 2014 ONCA 215 (C.A.), the plaintiff sued for solicitor's negligence in connection with a commercial real estate transaction.  The defendants brought a summary judgment motion to dismiss the claim on the basis of an expired limitation period.  The motions judge dismissed the motion, but went a step further, granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the basis that the defendants had acted negligently.

The defendants appealed and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.  It held that the evidence was clear that there was a duty to warn and the solicitor failed to do so.  The Court of Appeal held that "the principles of proportionality and sensible management of the court process support the judge's ruling". 

King Lofts shows a danger to bringing a summary judgment motion under the new Hryniak test.  Is this an unintended consequence of the new regime or in line with a goal of reducing the number of cases that need a full blown trial?