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January 7, 2015

Municipality Has No Duty to Negligent Drivers

The Court of Appeal recently held that there is no duty on the part of a municipality to keep its roads safe for those who drive negligently.  It also rejected an argument that there is a different standard for rural and urban drivers.

In Fordham v. Dutton-Dunwich, 2014 ONCA 891 (C.A.), the 16-year-old plaintiff was seriously injured when he came to a rural intersection, ignored a stop sign and drove through the intersection at 80 km/hr.  He lost control on a curve and crashed into a concrete bridge abutting the road.  The trial judge found the municipality 50% responsible for failing to post a checkboard sign warning of the change in the road's alignment.  She held that it was local practice for rural drivers to go through stop signs and the municipality should have known that ordinary rural drivers do not always stop at stop signs.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and dismissed the action.  Laskin J.A. held that a municipality's duty of repair is limited to ensuring its roads can be driven safely by ordinary drivers exercising reasonable care.  In addition, there cannot be one standard of reasonable driving for rural drivers and another for city drivers.  There is one standard of reasonable driving and that standard requires drivers to obey traffic signs.

Fordham helps define a municipality's standard of care: although ordinary reasonable drivers are not perfect and may make mistakes, they are not negligent.

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