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Slip and Fall and Snow Removal Procedures – What’s Required?

Victor Lewin - Thursday, October 12, 2017

In the recent case of Flowers v Allterrain Contracting Inc., 2017 NSSC 194, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court reviewed the case law on slip and fall claims. In this particular case, the Plaintiff slipped and fell on ice when exiting a Walmart store in Halifax. She sued the owner of the property and the snow removal company as a result of her injuries. The Court was asked to look at liability only (i.e. to determine whether the Defendants were negligent and liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries).

The evidence at trial was that throughout February 16 and17, 2010, there was a major snow storm and between 25 and 30 cm of snow fell. By 9:00 a.m. on February 17, the snow had essentially stopped falling. The Plaintiff attended the Walmart at approximately 7:30 to 8:00 p.m. that evening. After spending approximately 30 minutes in the store, the Plaintiff left the store and proceeded to her vehicle. She then slipped and fell on ice. She claimed that she looked around and saw ice on the walkway, but saw no salt spread in that area of the walkway.

The Defendants described their snow removal procedures, which included pre-salting all entrances prior to the first snowfall. After this, the snowfall was managed as it occurred by various employees using various equipment. While the Defendant’s witnesses did not remember the specific day, the logbooks for February 16 and 17 were submitted to the Court. These logbooks showed what snow removal work was completed on the property. The logs were somewhat problematic given that there was no clear indication as to what work was completed and when on the walkway in questions. The Court made the following comment at paragraph 41 regarding this issue:

There exists precious little evidence of inspection of that specific area. The evidence shows that some of the Allterrain labourers were assigned to clear snow and salt that area, but we do not know when or how often. The evidence establishes that trucks drove by and deposited additional salt, but we do not know when and how much.

The Court looked at the applicable legislation, being the Occupiers’ Liability Act, SNS 1996, c.27, s.4, as well as the case law on the topic. The case law is clear that the standard for snow removal and maintenance is reasonableness, not perfection.

The Court had no problem accepting the evidence of the Plaintiff in finding that she did fall on ice. The issue for the Court was determining whether the defendant had a “reasonable and adequate” system of procedures in place for keeping the area free of ice.

The Court did note that the system in relation to the walkway area in front of the Walmart was to some extent, ad hoc and therefore, not ideal. In concluding that the Defendant had met the test for reasonable snow removal procedures, the Court made the following comments at paragraph 44:

Allterrain devotes much time, energy and resources to the job of snow and ice clearing at the Halifax Shopping Centre, including the Wal-Mart section of the property. Allterrain maintains a system of repeated plowing and salting throughout this property, including walkways, in a concerted effort to render the property safe. That system has been described in evidence, and I have described it here. In my view, while it is not perfect, it is a reasonable and adequate system as required by law.

The Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim.

In any slip and fall case, injury is not enough to be successful. You must prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to ensure others’ safety. Most of the time the defendant will rely upon policies, procedures and records to show reasonable efforts.

As an injured individual, it is difficult to understand and interpret these records, let alone determine if you have a case.  If you have been injured by in a slip and fall case, one of accident lawyers would be happy to speak with you and assist you through the process.

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