We are in the midst of a lovely winter, replete with ice storms, blizzards, freezing rain, and school bus cancellations. Freezing temperatures beget ice and ice begets slips and falls. Oh, Canada.
If you are a residential homeowner (or home occupier) in Ontario, then you may have wondered whether you need to shovel your driveway/walkways or whether you need to throw down some salt or sand, especially on those days when it is so miserable outside that you couldn’t be bothered. You may have wondered what would happen if the person delivering your new toaster (ordered online) slipped and fell on your walkway and injured his or her elbow. Could you be held responsible?
We can all rejoice because the Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act – the “OLA” – has the answers!
At a very basic level, the OLA states that owners and occupiers of land in Ontario have a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on their property are reasonably safe.
What this means is that yes – you should probably resist the temptation to ignore and/or drive over that mess on your driveway and instead get out your trusty shovel and do some clearing. Doing absolutely nothing in the face of slippery and icy conditions on your property may leave you at an increased risk of legal liability. Doing nothing when something ought to be done is seldom viewed as “reasonable”.
At the same time, you do not need to get out the hairdryer and melt every bit of ice/snow on your driveway and walkways. The key word is “reasonable”, not “perfection”. Use common sense – shovelling and a bit of rock salt will usually suffice.
Most people carry some form of home insurance or renter’s insurance that may afford some protection in the event that someone slips, falls, and sustains injury on their property. However, I suggest that you do yourself a favour and avoid the headache of an insurance claim by heading outside, wave to your neighbours, and get some winter exercise.
Andy Rady is an associate lawyer in the Personal Injury Law Group. Connect with Andy on LinkedIn.