Today we continue our discussion of Ontario premises liability law. Last week we introduced the Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act, our provincial law governing the legal responsibility of the occupier of a building or piece of land to take reasonable care to keep the premises reasonably safe for people who enter onto those premises.
The occupier’s duty of care extends both to the premises’ condition and to activities taking place there.
An important legal question is who is an “occupier” under the Act. We linked to an Ottawa Citizen article in our last blog in which a law professor opined that not only is the owner of premises responsible for safety, but also potentially anyone else who controls those premises.
The Act defines a responsible occupier as including any of these:
- A person in physical possession of premises
- A person responsible for and in control of a premises’ condition
- A person responsible for and in control of activities on premises
- A person who controls who can enter premises
An occupier under the law includes the legal owner of premises as well as a landlord of premises, but could potentially include someone else who is in control of premises as a renter or in another capacity.
The Act states that an occupier’s duty of care is cancelled insofar as someone who enters the premises willingly assumes certain risks. However, even when there is assumption of risk, an occupier still may not deliberately create danger with the intent to harm the person or that person’s property, nor may the occupier act with “reckless disregard” of the visitor’s presence or of the visitor’s property.
Canadian Underwriter provides an article about a May decision by the Court of Appeal for Ontario that upheld a lower court decision that had found an Ontario municipality liable under the Act for a cyclist’s severe injuries from an accident at a mountain bike park on a wooden teeter-totter structure.
According to the article, the decision cited a Supreme Court of Canada decision that emphasized the factually specific nature of premises liability cases — that the law requires consideration of all the particular circumstances of a case to determine what kind of care is reasonable.
We have only introduced an extremely complicated area of Ontario law here. Anyone with questions about occupier liability for injury should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.