[ql06] TORT: Plowing sidewalks called way to avoid lawsuits

  • From: "Kenneth Campbell [QL06]" <2kc16@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <LAW123C-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 07:26:41 -0500

Here's a "fun" news story about tortious snowplowing behavior.
Maybe I can use this to make the City of Kingston plow their !*&%ing

How about a "class project," Kim?


P.S. There is not a damned citation in the whole story -- To borrow the
phraseology of Amelia, "O Toronto Star, when will you ever learn?"
Rectifying this dismally endemic problem in media reporting (what more
could readers want, over morning coffee, than case law citations?), I
looked up the cite and attach a PDF I made of the OCA opinion. It's
worth a read, if only to experience the Lord Denning influence in
MacPherson J.A.'s opening paragraph:

    "On a typical winter morning almost anywhere in Canada
    the silence of the pre-dawn hours is often broken by
    the sound of municipal snowploughs..."

Ahhhh... Take me away, MacPherson J.A. ...

P.P.S. This talk of an "independent tort of breach of statute" (in the
2nd issue section) is interesting.

--- cut here ---

Plowing called way to avoid lawsuits
`Sidewalk belongs to the city': Court

Feb. 17, 2004

A court ruling that holds municipalities and not property owners liable
if someone falls on a snowy sidewalk is being called another reason why
Toronto should continue to plow sidewalks.

Councillor Mike Del Grande, a member of the works committee, supports
plowing. He said yesterday it might be cheaper to keep the service than
pay compensation to people injured from falls on unshovelled sidewalks.

Del Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) was pointing to an Ontario
Court of Appeal ruling in 2000, in which an injured woman sued the City
of Vaughan and Vaughan in turn sued the homeowner.

The court ruled that a municipality cannot shift civil liability to the
property owner when it is sued by a pedestrian.

"The snow and ice accumulating on public sidewalks and the potholes on
the street in front of the house are the legal responsibility of the
municipality, not the adjacent property owner," the ruling said.

At the time of the 1997 accident, Vaughan had a bylaw requiring
homeowners to clear city sidewalks in front of their homes, but the
court ruled that doesn't remove the municipality's liability.

"The sidewalk belongs to the city, not the homeowner," Del Grande said.
"If the liability stays with the municipality under common law ... then
the municipality has a responsibility to address it."

Toronto councillors are currently battling over whether to keep the
city's sidewalk snow-clearing service on local residential streets.

Sidewalks are cleared everywhere except parts of the central city, where
parked cars and narrow streets make plowing sidewalks impractical.

Doing away with the service would save $350,000 this year, and $4.2
million next year. A decision will be made when Toronto's 2004 operating
budget is finalized in late April.

Vaughan, meanwhile, switched to plowing residential sidewalks in 1999,
rather than leave it up to residents.

Doing so was part of a decision to begin clearing driveway-blocking snow
piles (called windrows) left by the road plow, regional Councillor Joyce
Frustaglio said in an interview."At that time, council said, `Fine, as
long as we're doing windrows, we might as well do the sidewalks,'"
Frustaglio said. "It was a political decision."

The service started out costing Vaughan about $500,000 and the tab has
since doubled. Like some Toronto councillors, Frustaglio said the
program should be reviewed.

"There's the issue of can we continue to afford to provide this Cadillac
service," she said.

Frustaglio added that, like Toronto, Vaughan receives complaints that
the sidewalk plow damages people's lawns.

Councillor Jane Pitfield, chair of Toronto's works committee, said
homeowners can do a faster, better job than the city.

But Pitfield (Ward 26, Don Valley West) said the issue has been turned
into a political football.

"Every year, the staff offers this up as a place to cut," she said. "And
every year, certain councillors who decide it's an important service in
their area put it back in."

Councillor Michael Thompson, the rookie member for Ward 37, Scarborough
Centre, said he wouldn't want to lose the service, even though opinion
among his voters is split.

"The dollar amount doesn't appear to be that significant," Thompson
said. "If push comes to shove, it's probably something we can do
without, but I don't think we should have to."

Councillor Sylvia Watson, who was formerly a city solicitor, said the
liability issue would suggest the city should plow all sidewalks,
including those in the central city, but to do so would be prohibitively

And unnecessary, based on public opinion, said Watson (Ward 14,
Parkdale-High Park).

"The general feeling is this is not a service that needs to be done by
the city, except in the case of seniors and disabled people," she said.

-- Binary/unsupported file stripped by Ecartis --
-- Type: application/pdf
-- File: Vaughan snowplowing case.pdf

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