Living in the city has its perks, but it also comes with certain risks. If you suffer personal injury because of a poorly maintained road or while riding a public bus, you could sue the city for compensation. The municipal government is just as liable for personal injuries, due to negligence, like any other entity when it fails to provide the duty of care it owes to those living within its limits.
However, suing a city or town in civil court for compensation is not easy. It requires a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer steeped in municipal liability law to pull it off.
Municipal liability in Ontario is a complex issue. Under Ontario’s Municipal Act, the government is responsible for public spaces, such as roads, highways, bridges, parks, and public services, such as public transport, police force, and firefighters. As such, local authorities owe civilians a duty of care and should ensure that these public accommodations and services will not cause undue property damage or personal injuries.
Municipalities have so many dealings with civilians, however, that the risk of something terrible happening on government property or within their jurisdiction for lack of inspection or maintenance is high. This is the reason personal injury lawsuits often cite municipalities as defendants.
To manage this risk, section 44 of the Municipal Act placed limits on the liability of local authorities for the maintenance of public roads and highways and buildings and structures, which is governed by the Occupiers’ Liability Act. Section 450 further limits liability by stipulating that a municipal or local government may not be held liable if “the action or inaction results from a policy decision.”
In essence, public liability stops when the local government can prove that the failure to maintain a road is because of a policy, i.e., delayed maintenance due to lack of funding. The same applies to anything that happens under the government’s jurisdiction if the situation results from a policy decision.
Suppose local authorities fail to act in good faith to keep civilians reasonably safe, such as defaulting on their duty to keep a highway in a reasonable condition. In that case, municipal liability kicks in under the Negligence Act. If the city or local authorities are partially responsible for the injuries, they may be held jointly and severally liable to the victim of personal injury.
Accidents happen for many reasons, and no one is to blame. However, the whole idea behind negligence is the event or accident would not have occurred but for the action or inaction of a third party. That is the basis of municipal liability in the following examples:
In the case of Just v. British Columbia, the plaintiff, John Just, and his daughter were travelling along a highway in British Columbia when a rock fell from the slope and hit their car. The accident killed the daughter and seriously injured Just. The lower court dismissed the negligence claim because highway maintenance was policy and protected from liability. Still, the Supreme Court sent it back for retrial and Just succeeded in his lawsuit.
In the case of Nelson (City) v. Marchi, the respondent, Taryn Joy Marchi, maintained that she suffered injuries due to the negligence of city personnel performing snow clearing activities. The slip and fall accident occurred because the snow plowing crew neglected to provide safe access to the sidewalk. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the city owed the respondent a duty of care and was not immune from liability.
In the case of Ingles v. Tutkaluk Construction Ltd., the plaintiff sued the contractor and the City of Toronto for failing to ensure the renovation work was up to the building code. The renovation resulted in flooding to the basement and significant property damage, and a subsequent inspection showed the initial work was defective.
While the plaintiff was partially responsible for not insisting on getting a building permit before the work began, the court eventually found that the building inspectors failed to carry out their duty to inspect the contractor’s work thoroughly. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the City was jointly and severally liable for 14% of the damages, and the contractor was liable for 80%,
None of the cases above resulted in a positive outcome for the aggrieved party in the first trial. They all went through the appeals process before a final resolution. The extensive arguments in the case laws are testament to the complexity of personal injury claims for public liability.
While municipal liability is often open to interpretation, it would be good to know the factors contributing to it. Suppose you sustain serious injuries in an accident. In that case, you may be able to file a claim for compensation against local authorities if it was due to the following:
Negligence in Municipal Liability
What to Prove
In any public liability case, the plaintiff must prove that gross negligence on the part of the city or municipality is the direct cause of the injuries sustained. Gross negligence means there was an apparent failure on the part of the government body in their duty of care.
Arguments for Negligence
The Obligations of the Municipality
Under Ontario’s Municipal Act, municipalities should keep public structures and areas in a “reasonable state of repair,” particularly highways, bridges, and sidewalks.
“Get municipal liability insurance that can protect you from possible damages and accidents.”
– Diamond and Diamond
People expect local and municipal authorities to act according to their duty of care to their citizens. When they, or the people that represent them, fail to exercise reasonable care in the day-to-day performance of their duties, people can suffer extensive injuries through no fault of their own.
However, proving public liability is tricky and requires extensive knowledge of municipal law and municipal liability risk management. What’s more, you need to file a claim within ten days of the incident, or you lose any chance of compensation. Therefore, you should not waste any time.
The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond understand the urgency and can help you file a claim within the prescribed period. Our lawyers are familiar with the requirements to push forward claims against cities and municipalities when seeking compensation for personal injuries and property damage.
Don’t hesitate to call our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT right now if you or a loved one sustained an injury due to municipal negligence. You can also request an initial free consultation online so we can evaluate your case immediately.
We are here 24/7 to address your case. You can speak with a lawyer to request a consultation.1-800-567-HURT
Municipal governments have jurisdiction over public areas and services such as community water systems, parks, roads, parking lots, libraries, and local police. The authority of the municipality has originated from the provincial government.
Many provincial statutes govern municipalities. One example is Ontario’s Municipal Act, which defines municipal bodies’ authority, responsibility, and liability.
Municipal law may be said to be part of public law because it pertains to the legal relationship of the state to its citizens. On the other hand, private law pertains to the legal relationship between individuals. The interesting thing about municipal liability is that it involves tort law, typically part of private law.
The rise in legal liability of municipalities can be attributed to more lawsuits being filed, a tight insurance market, unrepaired potholes, missing guardrails, uneven roads, and even climate change.
In claims against municipalities in Ontario, accident victims must submit a notice of their claim to the municipality within 10 days of the accident. However, the timeframe is flexible, if, for example, the injury resulted in death or an extended stay at the hospital.
Municipalities are exempt from liability if a statute so permits or if the municipality’s decision arose out of a policy decision as opposed to an operational decision. As in, the former is exempt from liability while the latter is not. However, whether something is a policy or operational decision will depend on the facts of each case and, therefore, there is no straight forward answer.
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