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Ontario occupier liability claims: Part 1

We advocate for people who have been injured on land or in buildings that are owned by others. In Ontario, provincial law imposes legal responsibilities on property occupiers to take reasonable care to keep people entering the premises reasonably safe.

These legal claims are governed by the Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act and are referred to as occupier liability or premises liability cases. The Act and the court cases that interpret it create a complicated, detailed area of law. It is wise for anyone who is injured on the premises of another to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to understand what legal options for recovery are available and how to take legal action such as a personal injury lawsuit under the Act. 

Another reason to seek legal advice as soon as possible is that there are filing and notice deadlines that if not met could prevent an otherwise valid claim from going forward. If the land involved is publicly owned or occupied by a governmental body, the injured person should immediately contact the municipality or other governmental body involved to give required notice of the legal claim. In these public land cases, notice requirements have relatively short deadlines. 

Here are some examples of the kinds of unsafe premises that may cause injuries covered by the Occupiers’ Liability Act: 

  • Slippery sidewalks, parking lots or outdoor stairs covered with ice, snow or water
  • Uneven pavement, steps or floors
  • Unsafe or missing railings
  • Slippery floors from liquid spills, washing or waxing
  • Slick objects on the floor like produce in a grocery store
  • Tripping hazards
  • Inadequate lighting
  • And others

The Ottawa Citizen recently wrote an article that illustrates the potential complexity of the law as applied to real life. That article discusses a local beach that is used by the public, but the city has issued a legal opinion that it is owned by neighboring landowners. A law professor is cited for his opinion that a responsible occupier under the Act does not need to be an owner, but rather is someone who has taken control of the premises. 

Next week we will continue our discussion about Ontario occupiers’ liability law. 

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