If you fall, make the call!

The “very unfair” 10-day notice period in the Municipal Act has led to the dismissal of an action against a municipality, leaving an injured plaintiff with no access to justice for her injuries. The notice provision requires that municipalities be provided with notice of a potential claim within 10 days of the injury and that absent a “reasonable excuse,” failure to give notice will be a bar to the action.

In Seif v. City of Toronto, 2014 ONSC 2983 (Superior Court), Justice Morgan stated that he was sympathetic to the plaintiff  but was compelled by the Municipal Act to rule in the City’s favour. The case was picked up by the Toronto Star’s Jacques Gallant in his article “Women’s delay in suing the city after a fall costs her $9,000.00 in legal fees.”

It is doubtful that all but a few citizens are aware of the 10-day statutory notice requirement and, in the interests of fairness, justice and municipal accountability, it ought to be extended. In the meantime, any measures that increase public awareness, such as the Gallant article, will be of benefit to the public.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy for members of the public to figure out how to put a municipality on notice. Each city is different. As soon as possible after a fall, the injured person (or their family) should contact the municipality and advise, in writing, of the fall. Each municipality will have a department responsible for receiving the notice and a call to the city, or a review of its website, will hopefully lead to the appropriate department being identified. Often, the easiest way to put the City on notice is by contacting a local personal injury lawyer who will be familiar with the appropriate department and who will be able to provide written notice on the injured person’s behalf.

The message is clear — those hurt on municipal property need to immediately notify the municipality of their intention to make a claim, even if they later change their mind.

Read the decision here.

Contributed by Laura Hillyer, an OTLA Director and lawyer practising with Martin & Hillyer Associates in Burlington, Ont.

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Laura Hillyer divides her practice between Personal Injury Litigation and Criminal Defence. She strives to help her clients with the challenges they face whether they are injured or disabled and are seeking fair compensation, or are charged with a criminal offence. Laura believes that practising in these two areas of law provides her with a wide breadth of experience and gives her a balanced approach in facing legal problems.