Liability for Slip and fall Accidents in Parking Lots

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on April 28, 2019

Slip and fall accidents are all too common during Ontario winters. In Toronto alone, about 30,000 people visit hospital emergency rooms after slipping and falling on ice or snow.  And, in a large number of cases, these accidents result in serious injury and extended hospital stays. A majority of slip and fall accidents occur on sidewalks and parking lots, often because the surface was not properly cleared of ice or snow.

Liability claims for slip and fall accidents cost many millions of dollars to the Ontario government and municipalities, particularly the City of Toronto which pays out almost 7 million annually in liability claims for slips and falls.  Private parking lot owners are also liable when they fail to properly clear the parking lot, causing someone to fall and become injured as a result.   These are the circumstances that led to a 2018 civil action, Maceachern v. TFG Inc., in which the owner of a Huntsville mall parking lot was found liable after a woman fell on ice and was seriously injured, while walking across the parking lot.

In Maceachern, the Court found that the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident resulted because the parking lot had not been cleared, sanded or salted on the date of the fall.  The 62-year-old plaintiff sustained a number of injuries as a result of her fall, including a fracture to her left knee, and tearing and straining of muscles, ligaments and tendons in various parts of her body.  Her injuries necessitated an extended hospital stay and subsequent surgery, after which the plaintiff was in a wheelchair and a cast for 3 months.  She also underwent extensive rehabilitation treatments for many months.

Medical evidence indicated that the slip and fall accident exacerbated arthritic and degenerative changes in the plaintiff’s back and knees.  The injuries ultimately resulted in chronic pain, including constant pain in both knees, and a significant reduction in the plaintiff’s mobility.  The Court awarded the plaintiff $115,000 for pain and suffering damages, in addition to awards for past and future loss of income and over $36,000 toward OHIP’s subrogated claim.

Another civil action, Wettlaufer v. K2D2 Investments Inc.(2018), arose after a slip and fall accident that occurred in a plaza parking lot in New Hamburg, Ontario.  Mr. Wettlaufer, the plaintiff, alleged that he fell and was injured after he slipped on black ice, while crossing the parking lot on his way to an auto parts store on the north side of the plaza. An engineer testifying for the plaintiff gave the opinion that a lack of salting or sanding the parking lot is the reason for the fall.  

Two witnesses, including a friend who had driven the plaintiff to the plaza, testified that they saw Mr. Wettlaufer slip and fall heavily, almost immediately after exiting the car.  The witnesses stated that the fall occurred on a patch of black ice near the catch basin on pavement that was sloping downwards towards the center of the lot.  One of the witnesses testified that he did not notice any other icy areas on the parking lot, at the time.

The Wettlaufer lawsuit was brought against several defendants including K2D2 Investments Inc., the parking lot owners, and F.W. Rogers Enterprises Inc., the company that performed asphalt repairs on the parking lot prior to the accident.  In the 2018 action, Rogers brought a motion to have the claim against it dropped. However, the judge in this case found that the evidence indicated that the jury may find Rogers liable for the accident and therefore, Rogers’ summary judgement motion was dismissed.

At the summary judgement trial, an engineer gave evidence on behalf of K2D2.  The engineer stated that parking lots are typically constructed with a slope of 2% to channel precipitation away.  In this case, the plaza parking lot had a slope of 4-8% from north and south to the catch basin, but less than 2% slope in a 2-metre patch just west of the catch basin.  Another patch had been constructed to slope away from the catch basin and the engineer for K2D2 stated, because the patched asphalt prevented watch from flowing into the catch basin, there was higher potential for pooling of water which could freeze and create an icy surface. Further, the repairs to the asphalt resulted in a condition that was inconsistent with the original pavement slopes and failed to create proper drainage, causing an unsafe condition. 

A Rogers representative testified that when he patches asphalt on parking lot surfaces, he only ‘eyeballs’ to check whether repairs are properly done, rather than using a level or grading the surface. The judge found there was sufficient reason to believe that improper patching completed by Rogers may have contributed to the plaintiff’s fall, and liability against all defendants named in this claim would need to be decided in the upcoming jury trial.

Slip and fall accidents in parking lots can occur for a number of reasons, including when the accident victim wears improper footwear in icy conditions or fails to take care while walking.  However, if an unsafe condition caused you to slip and fall in a parking lot or on a walkway, and you sustained serious injuries as a result, you are entitled to claim damages against the negligent party responsible for the dangerous condition.

Call an experienced Injury Lawyers of Ontario slip and fall accident lawyer to find out if you have good grounds to claim compensation.  We invite you to an initial consultation in which you can have all your legal questions answered and can learn what’s involved in successfully settling a claim. 

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