Baltadjian v. Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation for the Diocese of Alexandria, 2017 ONSC 61

The Occupiers’ Liability Act does not create a standard of perfection or presumption of negligence against occupiers whenever individuals are injured on their premises. Rather, a plaintiff must be able to point to some act, or failure to act, on the part of the occupier which caused or contributed to his or her injury before liability will be established.

Date Heard: December 8, 2016 | Full Decision [PDF]

The plaintiff volunteered to paint the defendant church’s interior walls and ceilings. After assuring a supervisor of the defendant that he was comfortable painting from a ladder and had previous experience doing so, the plaintiff attended for painting duty on multiple occasions over several weeks using an eight foot stepladder. While working from the stepladder, the plaintiff fell, resulting in a head injury and coma for 25 days. He subsequently commenced an action against the defendant church, arguing that it breached its duty to ensure his reasonable safety while he was voluntarily working on the premises. In response, the defendant brought a motion for summary judgment.

In granting the defendant’s summary judgment motion, the Court considered subsection 3(1) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act and found the principle that the duty of occupiers to make their premises reasonably safe for people entering on them is not absolute and that occupiers are not insurers liable for any damages that may be suffered by people entering their premises.

After a thorough consideration of all the evidence, the Court granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion, finding that it provided a reasonably safe environment that ensured the reasonable safety of the plaintiff. In making this determination, the Court was mindful of the fact that the integrity of the stepladder in question was confirmed through expert evidence, as well as the fact that the floor on which it was placed was flat, solid and clear of debris. As such, the stepladder was suitable for its purpose, which was supported by the fact that there were no complaints about it by the plaintiff or others. The Court specifically noted that the use of a stepladder itself does not inherently constitute an objectively unreasonable risk of harm.

In addition, the Court indicated that even if it could have been said that the stepladder presented an objectively unreasonable risk of harm, the plaintiff, due to his head injury and amnesia, could offer no evidence as to the cause or mechanics of his fall. As such, the requisite causal nexus could only have been made by speculation, which the Court was not prepared to do.

The Court concluded that the defendant provided a reasonably safe environment for the plaintiff and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

 

Read the full decision [PDF]
Einav Shlomovitz
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Einav practices exclusively in civil litigation. Her practice focuses on motor vehicle accident, accident benefits, occupier’s liability, slip/trip and falls, dog bites, medical malpractice, solicitor negligence, class action, employment and sexual assault claims.

During her free time, Einav takes improv and Spanish lessons. She enjoys being active, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.