Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Court of Appeal dismissing an appeal of a jury finding liability after a tenant of a residential property owned by the City of Burnaby caused severe burns to a guest.
In today’s case (Abdi v Burnaby (City)) the Plaintiff, a young woman who was invited as a guest to a party at the Defendants property “suffered severe burns and her life was forever changed” after the Defendant tenant had a backyard fire and “poured used motor oil onto the fire from a bucket. The oil exploded onto Ms. Abdi, and she became covered in flames from neck‑to‑toe“.
There was evidence that the tenants “had a long history of having fires in the fire pit they created in their backyard, despite open fires being contrary to a City bylaw“. There was further evidence that the City had some prior knowledge of this requiring, at least on one occasion, the City’s fire department having to attend the residence and extinguish a fire. Following this incident the City did not follow up with any inspection of the property despite having a policy to conduct safety inspections of its residential properties.
At trial a jury found both the tenants and the City liable. In dismissing an appeal of the City’s liability the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:
When sued for negligence and Occupier’s Liability Act claims public bodies enjoy a defense that private citizens and businesses do not, namely the policy defense. Actions taken pursuant to a good faith policy decision can shield a public body from liability in circumstances where a private defendant would be held liable. Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, discussing and applying this principle.
In today’s case (Lowe v. Sidney (Town of)) the Plaintiff slipped and fell on black ice on a parking lot owned by the Defendant. The Plaintiff argued the Defendant was negligent in failing to inspect and address this ice before the incident. The Court disagreed and dismissed the claim. In doing so Mr. Justice G.C. Weatherill made the following comments in applying the policy defence:
Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Court of Appeal finding purported waivers of liability to be of no force and effect.
In this week’s case (Apps v. Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd) the Plaintiff suffered a significant spinal injury at the C4/5 level, and was rendered quadriplegic while snowboarding the Defendant’s resort. He sued for damages but at trial the claim was dismissed with the Court finding posted waivers of liability prevented the claim.
The BC Court of Appeal overturned the result finding the posted waiver signs were not adequate. In reaching this conclusion BC’s highest court provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a lawsuit following a customer on customer assault at a commercial establishment.
In today’s case (Tanaka v. London Drugs Limited) the Plaintiff was shopping at London Drugs when another customer suddenly and unexpectedly punched the Plaintiff in the face knocking him unconscious. The assailant remained unidentified. The Plaintiff argued London Drugs should be vicariously liable for the assault either based on the principles of Negligence of Occupier’s Liability legislation. In dismissing the claim and finding there should be no vicarious liability in the face of a “sudden, random, and apparently unprecedented act of violence” Madam Justice Horsman provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a trial dismissal of a negligence claim involving a mooring rope which ‘catapulted’ into a Plaintiff causing injury.
In today’s case (Oddy v. Waterway Partnership Equities Inc.) the Plaintiff was injured when “a stake embedded in a beach, and attached by the mooring rope to the houseboat, broke free and was catapulted back towards the houseboat“. The stake struck the Plaintiff causing significant injuries.
Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, dealing with an interesting issue: Can a commercial occupier be sued for an intentional assault for having inadequate lighting in their alleyway.
In last week’s case (Vaughn v. Kelowna Speedometer Ltd.) the Plaintiff was a patron at the Blue Gator Bar and Grill in Kelowna, BC. After several hours he left the pub. As he was walking in the pub’s back alley he was “assaulted from behind and seriously injured“. His assailant was unknown. The Plaintiff sued the Pub alleging that the alley had poor lighting and this contributed to the assault. Mr. Justice Shabbits dismissed the lawsuit finding that even if the lighting was inadequate for the conditions it did not cause the assault using the “but for” test. In dismissing the claim the Court provided the following reasons:
In my opinion, the plaintiff has not shown that but for proper lighting he would not have been injured. I agree with the submission that additional lighting may have reduced the risk of an assault, but lack of lighting did not cause the assault. The plaintiff could have been assaulted in daylight hours, or assaulted farther down the alley. It is speculation to infer that lighting was a factor in the assault occurring. Even assuming that the lighting at the rear of the Blue Gator was inadequate, the evidence is not capable of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that Mr. Vaughn would not have been injured had proper lighting been in place.
Mr. Vaughn bears the burden of showing that “but for” the negligent act or omission, the injury would not have occurred. There is no evidence on which I would find that but for adequate lighting, the injury would not have occurred. I am of the opinion that it has not been shown, on a balance of probabilities, that a lack of lighting caused Mr. Vaughn’s loss.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, assessing damages for a comminuted fracture involving the left humerus (shoulder injury). (Illustration provided courtesy of Artery Studios Ltd.)
Today’s case (Legault v. Brock Shopping Centre Ltd.) involved a slip and fall injury in 2005 in Kamloops, BC. The Plaintiff was walking towards a business known as “Penny Pinchers” in Kamloops BC. As he approached the shopping centre his foot slipped on ice and he stumbled forward falling “into the store front window“. He suffered various injuries, the most serious of which was a fractured shoulder.
The Plaintiff was found 50% at fault for his own injuries for “not observing the ground conditions beneath his feet as he approached the sidewalk“. The Defendant owner was also found 50% at fault for not clearing the ice with the Court finding that “the Defendant owner failed to respond to two calls from the tenant to address the condition of the parking lot. Responding to one of these calls would likely have appraised the owner of the melting and freezing conditions that also affected the sidewalk margin area“.
The Plaintiff’s orthopaedic surgeon gave the following evidence with respect to the severity of the injury: Mr. Legault slipped and fell through a plate glass window at a shopping mall. He sustained a number of small lacerations to his upper extremities and his lip which were sutured in the emergency department. The main impact occurred on his left shoulder and he was diagnosed with a proximal humerus fracture…Radiographs and CT scan performed December 6, 2005, revealed a comminuted intraarticular fracture of the proximal humerus with slight superior and posterior displacement of the greater tuberosity…. Mr. Legault has developed post traumatic arthritis of his left shoulder most probably secondary to a fracture sustained December 6, 2005. Although the symptoms of pain and stiffness due to arthritis may plateau, it is possible that he may experience progressive symptoms in the shoulder as time passes. As arthritis is an irreversible condition, Mr. Legault has a permanent impairment. He is likely to experience increased symptoms with repetitive activity, overhead activity, and activities which load the shoulder joint including use of vibratory tools or machinery, or heavy lifting. Surgical options for shoulder arthritis include arthrpacopy and debridement or hemi or total arthroplasty. The results of these procedures for post traumatic arthritis (as compared to degenerative osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example) are less favorable. In this particular patient, his complication rate would be significantly increased due to his size and longstanding diabetes.
The Plaintiff’s total damages were assessed at $354,311 but this award was cut in half to account for the plaintiff’s contributory negligence. In assessing non-pecuniary damages of $110,000 for the Plaintiff’s shoulder injury the Court found as follows:
I am satisfied that he has suffered an injury that has resulted in a permanent partial disability and will permanently affect his enjoyment of life on a daily basis, causing him difficulty with self care hygiene, dressing, moving up and down stairs, marital intimacy, home maintenance tasks, and driving. The physical injury has also made it more difficult to manage his obesity and other health issues related to fitness. His wife testified that she feels as if she has lost her husband entirely. He was formerly able to lift and carry heavy automobile components and use heavy power tools in the course of working on vintage cars, which was his main interest in life; but he is unable to do that and has lost much of his zest for life.
 The plaintiff has referred me to cases where non-pecuniary awards in the range of $125,000 to $150,000 were made and the defendant relies on cases in the range of $70,000 to $75,000. I assess Mr. Legault’s loss under this head of damages at $110,000, which is subject, of course to the 50/50 apportionment of liability, as will be the case with the awards under the remaining heads of damage.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a produce vendor liable for injuries sustained when a shopper slipped and fell on a dropped grape.
In today’s case (Davis v. Kin’s Farm Market) the 75 year Plaintiff was shopping in Lynn Valley Mall in North Vancouver. As he walked “past the fruit and vegetable display tables located outside of Kin’s Market, he slipped and fell on a green grape“.
The grape was just outside of Kin’s Market in an area that was “encroaching somewhat into the marbled tiles forming the mall pedestrian corridor“. The Plaintiff sued the owner of the Mall and the produce store.
The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff was at fault for his injuries and that they were not responsible because they had a reasonable system to deal with hazards on the floor. However, this was contradicted by a witness who gave evidence that “several hours after the ambulance took (the Plaintiff) away” there were “more grapes on the marble tiles immediately outside the store” and that after bringing these grapes to the attention to the employee in charge of Kin’s Market “this employee took no steps to clean up the grapes“.
Madam Justice Bruce went on to find both Defendants liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries. Specifically the Court reasoned as follows:
 In addition to having no reasonable system of inspection and maintenance in place to address spills from the bins and display tables outside the store, I find that the employees were not complying with the standards set by their employer on the day of the accident. Ms. Janda’s evidence tends to show that the employees of Kin’s Market were lax in regard to the cleanliness of the areas surrounding the bins. While evidence of a failure to comply with the cleaning policies well prior to the date of the accident cannot be used to infer such a failure on the date of the accident, in this case there is evidence that just hours after Mr. Davis’ fall there were more grapes on the marble tiles adjacent to the bins displayed by Kin’s Market. This evidence suggests that the employees of Kin’s Market had rather poor powers of observation. Moreover, the fact that on two occasions on June 5, 2005, employees of Kin’s Market took no steps to clean up fallen grapes after the spills were brought to their attention strongly suggests that they took no responsibility for any produce that landed beyond the brick tiles.
 Lastly, Kin’s Market argues that even if it failed to meet the standard of care owed as an occupier, the fact that the Owner met this standard removes any responsibility they may have for the accident. I am unable to accept this argument. Where there are two occupiers of premises, each of them owes a duty of care to persons invited to enter the premises. The fact that the Owner may rebut a prima facie breach of the Act does not obviate the necessity for Kin’s Market to also satisfy the two pronged test articulated by the Court of Appeal inAtkins. Permitting grapes to remain on the floor as a hazard is negligent absent proof that a reasonable system of maintenance and inspection was in place and being followed on the day of the accident. Kin’s Market has failed to satisfy this onus and it is irrelevant whether the Owner has led evidence that shows it met the required standard of care.
The Court went on to find that the Plaintiff was not at fault for falling reasoning as follows:
 Kin’s Market argues that Mr. Davis had an obligation to keep a proper look out for his own safety and to be aware of his surroundings: Gervais v. Do, 2000 BCSC 1271,  B.C.J. No. 1732. Kin’s Market points to Mr. Davis’ admission that his attention was not directed to where he was walking before he fell; rather, he was looking toward the Shoppers Drug Mart. He was familiar with the mall and could have avoided the fall had he been paying attention to the floor where he was walking…
 In my view, it is not reasonable to expect Mr. Davis to be staring at his feet as he walked through the mall towards the Shoppers Drug Mart. Had he positioned his head in a downward direction to detect possible hazards on the floor, Mr. Davis may have stepped over the grapes in his path; however, he may also have run into another mall patron possibly causing damage to himself and the other person. It is also understandable that Mr. Davis would not be cognizant of the risks associated with walking in the common area of the mall adjacent to Kin’s Market, particularly as he was three to four feet from the display tables. He was not inside the store where he may have been alerted to the possibility of produce that had fallen to the floor. Lastly, I find Mr. Davis’ circumstances are similar to that found by the Court of Appeal in Coulson. The tenants in the mall design their displays to attract customers’ eyes. They do not encourage patrons to keep their eyes on the floor ahead of their feet. As Bauman J. (as he then was) said in Dufty v. Great Pacific Industries Inc., 2000 BCSC 1474,  B.C.J. No. 1988 at para. 44:
 As to the issue of contributory negligence, it has been said many times, most recently by Justice Burnyeat in Coleman v. Yen Hoy Ent. et al, 2000 BCSC 276 [In Chambers], that while there is a duty on the plaintiff to be aware of her surroundings, it is not the case that she is required to “glue her eyes to the ground.”
Reasons for judgement were released today discussing the duty of British Columbia nightclubs to take reasonable care in seeing that their patrons are safe.
In today’s case (Hartley v. RCM Management Ltd.) the Plaintiff was injured when he was “struck by a beer bottle in his right eye by an unidentified assailant” while at a nightclub. The Plaintiff sued the corporate defendants that operated the Nightclub.
Before being struck by the bottle the Plaintiff had a verbal altercation with the unknown assailant which lasted 2 – 2.5 minutes. The Plaintiff argued that the Nightclub was responsible for failing to intervene in that time and had they done so this injury would have been prevented. Madam Justice Gerow agreed in part with the Plaintiff and found that the unknown assailant was 50% responsible, the Plaintiff was 15% responsible and the corporate Defendants 35% responsible for failing to have its security guards intervene in the altercation. In reaching this verdict the Court provided the following reasons:
 It is clear from the case law that the corporate defendants were not an insurer of Mr. Hartley’s safety. However, there are circumstances in which an occupier of a nightclub or bar has been found liable to its patron for injuries caused by another patron. Whether or not an occupier of a nightclub or bar will be liable for injuries caused to a patron by another patron is very fact dependent.
 The issue is whether the corporate defendants took reasonable steps to protect Mr. Hartley from a danger they ought to have recognized when Mr. Lutke and the unidentified man were yelling and pushing and shoving.
 On the night of the incident, there were five security staff on duty. The uncontroverted evidence of Mr. Lutke and Mr. Hartley is that Mr. Lutke and an unidentified man were involved in an altercation – pushing and shoving accompanied by loud yelling – for 2 to 2½ minutes….
In my view, it is reasonably foreseeable that the type of altercation described by Mr. Lutke and Mr. Hartley could escalate, and lead to a fight in which someone could be injured by being hit by a bottle.
 The uncontradicted evidence of Mr. Hartley and Mr. Lutke is that the altercation went on for 2 to 2½ minutes before Mr. Lutke was hit with the bottle and Mr. Hartley stepped in to assist him. As indicated earlier, Mr. MacLeod conceded that such behaviour – yelling and shoving and pushing – would not be tolerated for that length of time in the Barfly. I am of the view there was more than adequate time for security staff to intervene before Mr. Hartley felt it necessary to go to Mr. Lutke’s aid. Their failure to do so was, in my view, a breach of their duty under s. 3 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act.
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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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