Property owner not responsible for icy sidewalk fall – despite bylaw requiring snow removal
In the recent decision of Scheck v. Parkdale Place Housing Society, 2018 BCSC 938, the plaintiff, Muriel Winona Scheck slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk in Summerland, B.C. on December 29, 2015. ‘
The icy sidewalk separated Angus Street in Summerland from a senior’s housing facility operated by the defendant Parkdale Place Housing Society (“Parkdale”), where Ms. Scheck lived.
The icy sidewalk was the property of the defendant, The Corporation of the District of Summerland (“Summerland”).
All parties agreed that Ms. Scheck fell on Summerland’s sidewalk, and that she injured herself in the fall. The court was tasked with determining if either Summerland or Parkdale owed Ms. Scheck a duty of care on the day she fell.
Summerland and Parkdale applied for orders dismissing Ms. Scheck’s claims on different bases. Summerland argued that any duty of care it owed to the plaintiff had been negated or in the alternative satisfied by its snow and ice removal Bylaw 93-065.
Parkdale argued it did not owe Ms. Scheck any duty of care with respect to Summerland’s icy sidewalk. Summerland admitted that it “occupied” the sidewalk where Ms. Scheck fell, in the common law sense of occupation, as well as within the definition of occupier set out in s. 1 of the Occupiers Liability Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 337 (the Act).
On October 25, 1993, Summerland adopted Bylaw 93-065, pursuant to s. 579(2)(a) of the Municipal Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 290, which is now renamed to the Local Government Act, R.S.B.C. 2015, c. 1 making property owners responsible for removal of snow, ice or rubbish from sidewalks and footpaths next to their property.
Parkdale submitted that it is entitled to have the claims against it dismissed because it was not an “occupier” within the meaning of the Act of and at the time Ms. Scheck fell, that it owed no duty of care to Ms. Scheck, and no liability can attach to it.
The parties agreed that Summerland’s Bylaw 93-065 did not impose a common law duty of care on Parkdale. The court found that there was no evidence that Parkdale asserted any control over the activities conducted on the sidewalk outside its building, or that it purported to control or regulate who might use the sidewalk. Its obligations to clear snow and ice gave it arguable control over at least that aspect of the condition of the sidewalk, but not, say, control over cracks or other defects in the surface of the sidewalk.
On a review of all of the judicial cases cited, the court concluded that Parkdale owed no duty to Ms. Scheck as an occupier of the municipal sidewalk where she fell. The court also found that there is no common law duty on the owner of the property to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to the property. The snow and ice accumulating on public sidewalks and the potholes on the street in front of the house are the legal responsibility of the municipality, not the adjacent property owner. The court concluded that Parkdale owed no duty to Ms. Scheck with respect to Summerland’s sidewalk and dismiss her claims against Parkdale. In summation, Ms. Scheck’s claim against Parkdale failed and any action she had against Summerland would not be decided until evidence would establish whether she slipped and fell on ice or snow.
At Hauer and Co we assist clients who’ve been injured in slip and fall accidents