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Sidewalk Slip & Falls – Who’s Responsible?

Personal injury lawyers in Toronto are often contacted for injuries as a result of a slip and fall on a sidewalk. Picture this scenario: you and your family are having a friendly gathering at your neighbour’s house sometime in the winter. At the end up the night, you say your goodbyes and begin making the short trip home. Unfortunately, soon after you step onto the sidewalk in front of your neighbour’s house, you slip and fall, causing significant injuries to your body. Who’s responsible?

In some parts of the Greater Toronto Area, the municipalities have placed requirements on homeowners to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes, failing of which there will be a fine imposed. Given this, many may assume that a slip and fall on a sidewalk in front of someone’s home means that the homeowner is to be held responsible, and an action should be advanced against them as the defendant.
In 2000, the Court of Appeal touched on this scenario in the case of Bongiardina v. Vaughan (City). There, the court stated:
There is no common law duty on the owner of property to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to the property. The snow and ice accumulating on public sidewalks are the legal responsibility of the municipality. There are two exceptions to this general principle.

First, a property owner may be deemed in law to be an occupier of adjacent public property if the owner assumes control of that property.

The second exception to the general principle that a property owner is responsible only for his or her property is that the duty of care of the owner extends to ensuring that conditions or activities on his or her property do not flow off the property and cause injury to persons nearby.
In conclusion, the by-law’s which are passed by the municipalities which require homeowners to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes do not necessarily mean that the city is free from liability when there is a slip and fall on the sidewalk. As explained in Bongiardina, there are exceptions to the general principle.

Given the above, if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a slip and fall on a sidewalk in the Greater Toronto Area, it is critical that you contact a competent Toronto personal injury lawyer who understands municipal liability. Remember, failure to identify and name the correct defendants can mean that your compensation will be limited, or even, completely denied.

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