A woman’s attempt to hold the Town of Sidney liable for her injuries after falling on black ice was denied in B.C. Supreme Court.
On Dec. 20, 2017, the plaintiff, Cindy Lowe, slipped on a small patch of black ice while walking across a public parking lot operated by the Town of Sidney.
Lowe, a licensed practical nurse, had parked her car in the lot at Bevan Avenue and Third Street and was returning from a massage therapy appointment when she “suddenly slipped and fell.”
According to court documents, Lowe was wearing rain boots with a “somewhat worn tread.”
She didn’t recall any ice or snow on the surface of the lot when she was walking, but after the fall said she noticed a patch of black ice where her feet had been.
She later deposed “she had no doubt that she slipped on it and did not trip or stumble.”
As a result of the fall, Lowe suffered an injury to one of her shoulders – including a partial rotator cuff tear – a hurt lower back and a broken wrist. Her wrist required surgery which was performed eight days after the fall.
Documents say the temperature hovered around -2 C that morning and there had been rain and snow the night prior.
The RCMP had contacted the Town of Sidney around 3 a.m. warning of the icy roads – a call that put the Town’s snow removal risk management plan in action.
Public works and Town staff salted priority areas in the municipality, and the Town submitted to the court that it was exempt from owing a duty of care because it kept with its policy and did its best with “the availability of manpower, equipment and budgetary constraints.”
In fact, the Town of Sidney said its parking lots were low priority for snow and ice removal in the absence of a complaint or extreme weather event, something debated by Lowe, who argued that the lot could have been “inspected with little to no effort.”
In his decision, Justice Gordon Weatherill however, called that notion illogical.
“To require as a matter of policy that those involved in the inspection of priority areas, at the same time, divert their attention to and engage in an inspection of areas considered low priority is illogical and inconsistent with reasonable resource allocation and prudent policy-making,” he wrote.
Ultimately, Weatherill dismissed Lowe’s claims – writing that it is “pure speculation” to suggest that the Town would have found the small patch of black ice that caused Lowe to slip if it had done an inspection.
Weatherill also wrote: “the mere fact that an icy surface is salted or sanded does not mean a person will not slip on it.”
The Supreme Court justice said accidents like Lowe’s are frequent, and factors include pace, length of stride, weight and footwear tread among others.
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