‘Municipalities can’t be perfect in snow clearing’ says judge

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Quebec Small Claims Court Judge Eliana Marengo, ruling in favour of the City of Côte St. Luc in a slip and fall case, cited a Supreme Court ruling that municipalities cannot be expected to be perfect in their clearing of snow and ice after storms.

But the judge also praised the city for its cleaning efforts following storms early in 2015.

The Dec. 15, 2016, ruling emanated from a Jan. 6, 2015 incident in which a woman fell on a slippery sidewalk in Côte St. Luc. Her wrist was fractured and surgery had to be performed.

The plaintiff sued the city for $5,500, citing pain and suffering, and alleged that the city was “negligent in the maintenance of its sidewalk, following the inclement weather of Jan. 4, 5, and 6, 2015, which included approximately 50 mm of rain, over 90 cm of snow, as well as freezing rain.”

The city countered that its public works department worked diligently during the same three-day period “with a view to ensure the safety of its citizens.”

The court felt the evidence, which included the testimony of forepersons, a weather report and worksheets, showed that the city indeed “diligently and repeatedly cleaned and salted [the south-west area of the city where the fall took place] over the period in question.”

The judge also pointed out that the Cities and Towns Act states that, generally, “no municipality may be held liable for damage resulting from an accident, of which any person is the victim, on the sidewalks, streets, roads, walkways or bikeways, by reason of the snow or ice, unless the claimant establishes that the said accident was caused by the negligence or fault of the said municipality, the court having to take into account the weather conditions.”

Judge Marengo ruled that the plaintiff could not prove fault or negligence on Côte St. Luc’s part.

“On the contrary, despite the harsh and difficult weather conditions, it appears the defendant took all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of its citizens at this time,” the judge added.

The ruling also cited a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that “the fact that a person falls on the sidewalk does not necessarily give rise to a claim in damages; the standard of care required of municipalities is not one of perfection; and municipalities are not an insurer of pedestrians.”

The judge dismissed the case against Côte St. Luc.

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