Tag: failure to warn

Dental “Failure to Warn” Case Dismissed Where Court Finds Reasonable Person Would Have Consented To Risks

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Court of Appeal finding that no error was made by a trial judge who dismissed a dental surgery negligence claim where risks of the procedure were not adequately canvassed with a patient.

In this week’s case (Warlow v. Sadeghi) the Plaintiff was a patient who underwent dental surgery by the Defendant.  The procedure resulted in an “injured a nerve in Ms. Warlow’s lower right jaw, resulting in permanent and debilitating nerve pain that has altered virtually every aspect of her life.“.  Prior to surgery the Defendant did not adequately inform the plaintiff of this potential risk.  Despite this the trial judge dismissed the claim finding a reasonable patient would have consented had the risk been canvassed.  In dississing the plaintiff’s appeal the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

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Watch Out for the Moose, Eh! Failure To Warn Leads to Liability

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, addressing the duties of a motorist after colliding with an animal.
In today’s case (Ziemver v. Wheeler) a motorist struck a moose on the Alaska Highway.  It was “fully dark” at the time.  The moose lay dead or wounded when a subsequent motorist travelling in the same direction struck the animal, lost control and collided with an oncoming vehicle.
Multiple lawsuits were commenced.  The Court found that, given visibility issues, none of the motorists were responsible for striking the moose.  However, the first motorist was found liable for the subsequent collisions for failing to warn other motorists about the injured or dead moose in the roadway.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Watchuk provided the following reasons:
[154]     A driver who has collided with wildlife must take reasonable steps to preclude the possibility of another vehicle colliding with that wildlife.  The actions which will constitute reasonable steps will vary depending on the circumstances.  The time available to the driver who has collided with the wildlife is an important factor to consider in assessing reasonableness. ..
[180]     Warning other motorists of the hazard that he had good reason to believe was lying on the road was a duty.  The duty arose at the time that he hit the moose.  Not utilising the available 9 minutes to fulfill that duty was a breach of his duty.  That breach caused the collisions between Mr. Walter and the moose and the Walter-Ziemer vehicles. ..

[187]     Mr. Wheeler failed to take any reasonable or entirely possible steps over the period of approximately 9 minutes before the third collision.  He did not return to the scene until a minimum of 21 minutes had passed.  I find that in these circumstances, his failure to take any steps to warn other motorists of the hazard posed by the moose carcass fell below the standard of care.

[188]     I further find that but for Mr. Wheeler’s failure to warn other motorists, the Walter-Ziemer collision would not have occurred or would have been likely to result in significantly decreased injury. 

[189]     This is not a case like Fajardo, in which the collision would have occurred even if the defendant driver had taken reasonable steps to warn other motorists (at para. 40).  Unlike in Fajardo, the hazard in this case did not take up the entire highway lane.  Further, because the weather was clear and Mr. Walter and Mr. Ziemer could see each other approaching, it is unlikely that they would have collided if they had taken evasive action to avoid the moose, which also distinguishes this collision from the accident in Fajardo. 

[190]     Most importantly, I find that both Mr. Ziemer and Mr. Walter would have been likely to avoid or lessen the impact of the collision if they had been warned that there was an approaching hazard.  I accept Mr. Walter’s evidence that he would have slowed if he had seen flashing lights which he would have understood as a warning.  I also find that Mr. Ziemer was an attentive driver and that he would have been likely to respond to a warning signal from Mr. Wheeler.  Both of these findings are supported by the persuasive expert evidence of Dr. Droll which indicated the ways in reasonable drivers could be assisted by roadside warnings of an upcoming hazard. 

[191]     In conclusion, I find that Mr. Wheeler breached his duty to warn other motorists of the hazard posed by the moose carcass, and that this caused the Walter-Ziemer collision. 

Deep Sea Terminal Negligent After Failing To Warn User Of Automated Gangway

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding Prince Rupert Grain Ltd. (PRG), who operated a deep sea terminal, negligent for failing to meaningfully warn the Plaintiff about an automated gangway.
In the recent case (Ranjabar v. Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines) the Plaintiff was a cook on a foreign commercial vessel.  It docked at the Defendants deep sea terminal.  After a brief time at shore, as the Plaintiff was attempting to board the vessel, the automated gangway lifted and the Plaintiff fell onto the ship below fracturing his femur.
The Defendant PRG was found liable with the court finding the gangway was “both unusual and dangerous“.  The court noted that the English language warning signs were insufficient notice of this danger in the circumstances where occupants of foreign vessels were expected to encounter it.
At paragraphs 81-101 the Court sets out a lengthy list of applicable legal principles in occupiers liability cases concerning the use of a gangway.  In finding PRG liable Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:
[104]     Did the gangway pose an unusual danger? Yes, it did. The automatic gangway was both unusual and dangerous. It was unusual because none of the seamen who testified, including Ranjbar, Salmannia and Malayeri, had ever seen such a gangway in all of their combined years at sea around the world. Usually, a ship (and certainly the Iran Mazandaran) used its own gangway to access a terminal. Usually, it was continuously monitored and operated manually. Based upon this evidence, it is concluded that the average crew member would not have expected the gangway to rise automatically, especially with someone on it. Salmannia thought that “automatic” meant that the ladder remained at all times on the ship deck. The alarm cycle and sequence before lifting of the gangway was both unusual and dangerous if not known. None of PRG’s personnel who testified could interpret the record of the alarm sequence exactly and could not explain why or when the sequence was altered from the original operations manual. It was not obviously visually apparent to either Ranjbar or to Salmannia that the gangway automatically lifted…
[107]     PRG acknowledged this danger by placing the signs and using the horn to warn of danger from movement of the automatic gangway if someone was on it. Whether they were adequate is another question. The assistant maintenance superintendent for the terminal admitted that the gangway was dangerous, especially if one was on the ladder when it lifted. He had never attempted to experience the ladder when the gangway lifted because of the danger…
[113]     Did the failure of PRG to adequately warn of the danger cause Ranjbar to fall from the ladder? The answer is yes. If Ranjbar had known that the gangway would lift automatically, raising the stepladder off of the deck of the ship, he would not have waited while he threw down the backpack to Heidar and then proceed down the ladder. Heidar did not change his conduct as a result of the signs or horn, indicating that he, too, did not appreciate the danger. When the gangway started to lift, Ranjbar did not know what was happening and did not know what to do. Even if he had seen them, the warning signs were inadequate to transmit the danger to him. Ranjbar was aware of dangers generally at the terminal and took care, but relied upon others to inform him about specific dangers. He was a new visitor to this terminal and was given a security pass, but was not told anything about this gangway. The nature of the gangway as automatically lifting regardless that someone was on it was not obvious. It cannot be said in all of the circumstances that the plaintiff’s misunderstanding of the signs and horn was the cause of his injury…
[117]     In conclusion, following careful consideration of all of the facts and the guidance of the law, PRG is 100% liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiff.

Court of Appeal Finds Insufficient Warning Sign Not Causative of Trip and Fall Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal overturning a trial judgement and dismissing a trip and fall lawsuit.
In today’s case (Simmons v. Yeager Properties Inc.) the Plaintiff injured herself at the Defendant’s bakery.  Outside the bakery was a concrete landing and a wooden patio deck.  There was a 2-4 inch height difference between these surfaces.  The Defendant marked this with paint and also with a sign that read “watch your step please“.  The sign faded over time with the words ‘watch‘ and ‘step‘ becoming ‘quite faded and difficult to see‘.
At trial the Court found the Plaintiff 75% at fault with 25% blame going to the Defendant’s on the basis of the faded sign.  The BC Court of Appeal outright dismissed the claim finding the faded sign was not causative of the injuries given that the Plaintiff was not looking in the direction of the sign and did not see it at all.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[12]Thus the judge determined the bakery owners’ maintenance was inadequate to refute the conclusion that the ineffective warning sign constituted a breach of the Occupiers Liability Act:
[42]      Accordingly, I find that the plaintiff has proven on a balance of probabilities that by failing to maintain the outdoor waning sign, the defendants failed to take reasonable care to ensure the exterior area leading to the entrance of the bakery was reasonably safe.
[13]        This, however, is the extent of any finding the judge made of any breach of the Occupiers Liability Act or the standard of care attributable to the owners of the bakery and, in considering Ms. Simmons’ neglect for her own safety, the judge then went on to find that Ms. Simmons was not looking in the direction of the sign prior to her fall:
[45]      Here, I find that the patio step was there to be seen by the plaintiff had she paid attention to where she was going. It was demarcated by white paint that was generally visible to persons accessing the bakery entrance from the patio deck. The photographs of the area taken shortly after this incident show that the paint was not faded and worn as suggested by Mr. Murphy. It is questionable whether the faded outdoor warning sign was a significant factor in the circumstances since the plaintiff was not looking in that direction and did not see the sign at all.
[46]      If the plaintiff had been watching where she was walking, she would likely have seen that there was a difference in level from where she was to where she was going. I find her expectation that the entire walking surface would be level to be an unreasonable one, as she was not paying attention but was instead focused on the woman in front of her and on the front entrance to the bakery.
[14]        With respect, I am unable to see how it can be said the bakery owners’ breach of the Occupiers Liability Act renders them liable for the injuries Ms. Simmons suffered when she fell. The fact the sign was not properly maintained such as to have been readable cannot have caused Ms. Simmons to fall if, as the judge found, she was “not looking in that direction and did not see the sign at all”. Had the sign been readable it would have made no difference. Ms. Simmons would not have seen it. The bakery owners’ breach of the duty they owed to patrons like Ms. Simmons cannot have caused her fall.
[15]        Thus Ms. Simmons failed to “show on a balance of probabilities that ‘but for’ the defendant’s negligent act, the injury would not have occurred” (see Clements at para. 8). The facts found by the judge do not provide a legal basis for determining the owners of the bakery to be liable for the injuries Ms. Simmons suffered when she fell.
 

Gas Station Found Liable for Slip and Fall on Ice; $40,000 Non-Pecs for Dislocated Kneecap

Reasons for judgement were released this week dealing with fault and damages arising from a slip and fall incident at a North Vancouver gas station.
In this week’s case (Foley v. Imperial Oil Limited) the Plaintiff, an insurance adjuster for ICBC, slipped and fell on ice located near a car wash at an Esso Station in North Vancouver.   He suffered various injuries, the most serious being a dislocated knee.  He claimed the Defendants were liable for his injuries and sued for damages.  The Defendants disagreed arguing that they took reasonable care to keep the area clear of ice.
Mr. Justice MacKenzie agreed with the Plaintiff and found the Defendant responsible for the incident.  The evidence showed that when cars left the car wash water would drip down and sometimes freeze causing ice.  The Court found that the Defendant did not take adequate steps to warn of this known hazard.  In finding the gas station at fault the Court reasoned as follows:

[69] The defendants maintained no regular patrol for ice, but left the frequency of patrol for ice to the employees. Mr. Morrow testified that when he did patrol, he occasionally found ice, and then he would apply fresh salt. So the presence of ice would move him to reapply salt. This indicates either that he was not salting enough, or the defendants were not sufficiently addressing the problem. Both Mr. Morrow and Mr. Christian knew that dripping water from cars would wash the salt away.

[70] In short, the washing away of salt by the water dripping from cars leaving the car wash bay, and then freezing, constituted an unusual hazard of which the defendants were aware, but the plaintiff was not. Mr. Morrow knew the ice was hard to see, particularly if it was clear, and covered by water dripping from cars. He saw the ice on which the plaintiff slipped and it was covered by water. Therefore, it was hard to see.

[71] The defendants did nothing to warn users of the car wash about the risk of ice. They could easily have put out the orange warning cones that conventionally alert people to risk, or posted readily visible signs warning of the risk of ice. The expense would have been minimal. They could also have improved the drainage to avoid the washing away of the salt, or closed the car wash, as they had done on a couple of occasions before when it was cold enough for ice to form at the known area of risk. The patrol for ice, and salting could have been more frequent.

[72] In MacLeod v. Yong, [1997] B.C.J. No. 2108 (S.C.) at para. 8, Mr. Justice Burnyeat listed a series of factors that are relevant in considering whether an occupier has fulfilled the duty imposed by s. 3 of the Occupiers Liability Act. These factors include “whether an unusual danger was present, whether a warning had been provided to the plaintiff, the ease or difficulty and the expense with which the unusual danger could have been remedied, and any prior record of safe usage of the premises by others or by the plaintiff.”

[73] In considering whether the defendants have breached their duty to take reasonable care to ensure the plaintiff would be reasonably safe on the premises, I must consider all the circumstances of the case, including: the slip and fall was reasonably foreseeable and the defendants were clearly aware of it; the efforts made by the defendants depended on the judgment of employees who were prone to human error and who were occupied with other duties; and it would have been easy and inexpensive for the defendants to put up a warning sign, or orange cones at the location they knew was particularly hazardous.

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $40,000 for his injuries which included a dislocated knee cap.  In reaching this award Mr. Justice MacKenzie provided the following reasons:

[126]     The plaintiff’s most serious injury in the slip and fall was his dislocated right patella (kneecap). He also had a minor scrape on his head and strained wrists and abrasions that were bandaged at the hospital. He took nine days off work as the combined result of his knee and wrist injuries.

[127]     The dislocated kneecap caused the plaintiff excruciating pain. There was profuse swelling and a very large bruise. It was swollen and red for a few weeks or a month or more after the fall.

[128]     The plaintiff initially required crutches because he could not bear his weight. He also used a brace afterward, and tapered off his use of both the crutches and brace. The evidence as to how long he used both varies somewhat, but is simply a matter of inaccurate recording or memory, and not the plaintiff’s dishonesty.

[129]     The wrist pain lasted a month or two, and he had a very stiff neck with pain for a week or two…

[135] The knee pain, while gradually abating, had essentially plateaued by the spring of 2007. It was getting stronger and better, but he still felt pain and instability in the right knee in the spring of 2007. He saw his doctor in the spring and summer of 2007 and the doctor recommended he see a specialist, Dr. Forsyth, at the McGavin Clinic at UBC…

[140] In the summer of 2008, the plaintiff’s symptoms improved again and he noticed fewer symptoms. The pain ranged from nothing to 20 out of 100, or quite modest discomfort. However, knee stamina for walking and standing had not improved. Sitting for prolonged periods made his knee ache. He also noticed increased joint sounds in his knee, especially when climbing stairs. The plaintiff was forthright in admitting that he had some such sounds in both knees before the slip and fall, but after it, he noticed increased joint sounds in his right knee which he still notices…

[168]     The damages awarded in each case are specific to the particular facts. In this case, the plaintiff has suffered, and continues to suffer chronic pain and loss of enjoyment of life. His condition is likely to remain stable, although there is a risk that he may develop post-traumatic arthritis in the future, which could have further negative impact on his daily activities.

[169]     Based on my findings and upon reviewing the cases, I find an award of non-pecuniary damages of $40,000 is appropriate.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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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