Who is at Fault if You Slip and Fall in Front of a Business on a City Sidewalk in BC?

If you get injured from a trip or slip and fall on the sidewalk in front of a local business, you may be wondering who is responsible – the business or the city. The Occupiers Liability Act governs all business and municipalities and makes the “occupier” of the premises responsible.

Who is the “Occupier?”

Sometimes identifying who the occupier is not obvious, but a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver can make this determination.

The occupier is generally the one with responsibility for the premises or the one who has physical possession of it. Commonly, the occupier of the sidewalk is the municipality, but not always. A business may be deemed to be an occupier of the property if it assumes control of the property or has conditions or activities that occur on the municipal property without permission. If a business places a sign, planter, merchandise table or vehicle on the city sidewalk that causes a slip and fall accident, for example, then the business would be responsible as the occupier of the sidewalk.

Even if the business was not aware that it was causing a dangerous condition on the sidewalk, then it could still be responsible as the occupier because it ought to have known it could cause injury. For example, in Brazzoni v. City of Timmins, [1992] O.J. No. 254 (C.A.), the Toronto Dominion Bank was held responsible for snow and ice which had accumulated on its roof and fallen onto the nearby sidewalk.

Vancouver City By-laws

There may be situations where a business is responsible for a slip and fall accident on the sidewalk because the business was operating there and did not apply to the city for a special permit that allowed the business to sell goods there (e.g., during a special event). Business owners in Vancouver are prohibited from using the city sidewalk without permission, according to Vancouver By-Law 2849, section 66.1.  There is an exception that the by-law provisions will not apply to anyone who is authorized for street vending pursuant to the Street Vending By-law.

In some situations the city could be considered a “contributing occupier” if the negligence of an authorized vendor on the sidewalk results in a slip and fall accident. The city may be found to be co-contributor if a business applied for and was granted a special permit to conduct business on the sidewalk where the slip and fall occurred.

Snow and Ice Slip and Falls

The City of Vancouver’s Street and Traffic By-Law No. 2849, section 76, requires business owners to clear away snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of their property by 10:00 a.m. every day except Sundays. Resultantly, a business owner could face a fine of up to $2,000  if it fails to clear snow or ice from the sidewalk adjacent to the property.

To determine whether a business or the city of Vancouver is responsible for a slip and fall accident on the sidewalk due to uncleared snow, it is best to speak to an injury lawyer. The Vancouver city by-laws are very specific as to which part of the sidewalk they are responsible for. Additionally, your personal injury attorney in Vancouver may be able to confirm who is responsible based on the unique circumstances of the case, such as whether the business had a plan or made snow removal arrangements.

Making a Claim

Specific time limits must be observed when filing a slip and fall injury claim. For a claim against a municipality, the time limit may be as little as 30- 60 days unless there are reasonable explanations.  For a claim against a business, the Limitations Act requires that you serve the claim on the business within two years of the accident.

In Thauli v. Delta (Corporation), 2009 BCCA 455 the Municipality of Delta appealed a judgment in favor of Ms. Thauli by arguing that her written notice was in dispute.  Madam Justice Rowles, Mr. Justice Low, Madam Justice Levine ruled that Ms. Thauli did have a reasonable excuse for giving notice for the following reasons;

[22]      Ms. Thauli says that she did not provide written notice to Delta within two months because she did not know about s. 286….  She was occupied with her rehabilitation…and her return to work in a very busy practice. In addition, throughout this time, she continued to care for her husband and two children.

Get Legal Advice from Taylor & Blair LLP, Pedestrian Accident Lawyers, Vancouver

If you have sustained a slip and fall injury in Vancouver, contact us for your free legal consultation. We can help you to identify the at-fault party and advance your claim as quickly as possible. Call us at 604-737-6900.