Ikea's "Sophisticated" Washroom Cleaning Policies Derail Slip and Fall Lawsuit

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a slip and fall lawsuit against Ikea.
In today’s case (Dudas v. Ikea Ltd.) the Plaintiff slipped and fell in the washroom and speculated the cause of her fall was water left behind by Ikea’s janitorial contractor.  The Plaintiff sued both Ikea and the janitorial contractor.
Mr. Justice Weatherill dismissed the lawsuit finding the plaintiff’s speculation as to the cause of her fall was insufficient to prove liability but regardless that the washroom cleaning policies, which were followed, were “sophisticated, thorough and detailed” and these were sufficient in defeating the Plaintiff’s allegations of negligence.  In dismissing the claim the Court provided the following reasons:

42]         However, even if the plaintiff had proven on a balance of probabilities that she slipped on water left on the floor by Ms. Kaur while the plaintiff was in the washroom stall, she also has the onus of establishing on the balance of probabilities that she did so as a result of SBS, as an occupier, failing to meet the reasonableness standard required of it under s. 3(1) of the Act.  In my view, the plaintiff failed to do so.

[43]         Mr. Hay, SBS’s Chief Executive Officer, gave detailed evidence regarding the systems it had in place at Ikea for the provision of its maintenance and janitorial services and the training of its staff.  Those systems, policies and procedures are by any measure sophisticated, thorough and detailed.  It is hard to imagine reasonable steps that could have been implemented to improve them.

[44]         The plaintiff submits that it is apparent from the SBS Incident report that Ms. Kaur, the cleaner in question, knew that someone was in the washroom stall while she was mopping the floor, and that it was unreasonable for SBS not to have an established protocol in place for the cleaner to verbally alert patrons who were using washroom stalls to the fact that the floor outside of the stall was being mopped. 

[45]         Mr. Hay agreed that there is no such protocol in place.  He testified that, in such situations, SBS relies on the noise generated by the cleaners during the cleaning process. 

[46]         The plaintiff submits that the failure to have such a protocol was a breach of SBS’s obligations under s. 3 of the Act.  I disagree.  There is no evidence that such a policy exists anywhere in the industry.  Moreover, it raises policy issues relating not only to privacy, but also equality considerations in terms of the potential for hearing persons being preferred over non-hearing persons. 

[47]         This incident took place in a ladies washroom.  The potential for some dampness on the floor ought reasonably to have been expected by anyone using it.  The mere presence of some water on the floor does not constitute an objectively unreasonable risk of harm: Zary v. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., 2015 BCSC 1145 at para. 57.

bc injury law, Dudas v. Ikea Ltd., Mr. Justice G.C. Weatherill

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ERIK
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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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