In Martin v AGO et al., the Ontario Superior Court reiterated that the standard of care required of an occupier under Section 3(1) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.2 (the “Act”) is one of reasonableness and not perfection. Although the standard of care is fact-specific, occupiers are not responsible for eliminating every conceivable form of danger on the premises.
On a rainy summer day, the plaintiff slipped and fell on the ground floor of the John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton, tearing his hamstring in the process. The fall was caused by what the parties agreed was a “small amount of water” that had accumulated on the ground from another visitor’s wet umbrella.
The plaintiff brought an action for damages, claiming that the owner, property manager, and contractor responsible for performing janitorial services breached the standard of care required under section 3(1) of the Act, and were otherwise negligent in patrolling and cleaning the hallways.
At trial, the Court considered two key issues:
1. Whether the defendants breached the standard of care; and
2. If so, whether the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.
Did the Defendants Breach the Standard of Care?
On the facts of the case, Justice Valente found that the occupier had met the standard of care, as it had a sufficient system for inspection and maintenance in place.
The Court held that the day porter's inspection of the floors four times per shift was adequate in the circumstances. The courthouse was unlike a large and busy restaurant, where more frequent inspections are required due to traffic flow. Moreover, the courthouse had a work order system that permitted any member of the public to report a matter requiring immediate attention, including a spill. Lastly, the use of large industrial mats and six wet caution signs posted on the floor all supported the conclusion that the requisite standard of care had been met.
However, in any event, even if the standard had not been met, the plaintiff failed to prove that his fall could have been avoided through a more vigilant system of surveillance. This was demonstrated by the fact that the water at issue was equivalent to a melted ice cube, and was imperceivable by at least six other people who had walked over the area in question without issue prior to the fall.
Was the Plaintiff Contributorily Negligent?
Ultimately, the Court also determined that even if the defendants were liable, the plaintiff would be 30% at fault for the accident for having worn shoes with smooth, partially worn down soles.
This decision highlights that plaintiffs who slip and fall on an occupier’s premises are not automatically entitled to compensation, particularly where an occupier implements and follows a reasonable system of inspection and maintenance. Equally, this decision serves as a reminder that owners and occupiers should maintain careful record keeping regarding the actions it takes to inspect and maintain its premises to protect against legal action.
 Ibid at paras 63-64.
Any article or other information or content expressed or made available in this Section is that of the respective author(s) and not of the OBA.