- How does the court determine liability after a slip and fall accident in Newfoundland and Labrador?
What to do if someone gets injured on your property
Under provincial laws, property owners and occupiers in Newfoundland and Labrador have a legal obligation to ensure that their property is reasonably safe for visitors. Unlike other provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador do not have an Occupier Liability act. Instead, the courts rely on the province’s negligence act to determine liability.
Quick take Newfoundland slip and fall laws:
What happens if someone suffers an injury while on your property?
- You have two years to file a personal injury claim. If the claim involves long-term disability, you have 60 days to serve notice.
- Occupiers and property owners do not owe a duty of care to criminals.
- The court may apportion liability equally if the at fault party is unclear.
- Do not admit fault at the scene of a slip and fall accident.
- The victim may sue for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, or other damages.
- You may use safety inspection logs as a defense.
- You do not owe a duty of care to anyone who willingly assumes a risk.
What happens if someone slips and falls on your property in Newfoundland and Labrador?
According to previous court rulings in the province, occupiers owe a duty of care to visitors who enter their property. Consequently, if a visitor gets injured because of the action or inaction of the occupier or an employee, the victim may have grounds to take legal action.
Note, that an occupier must keep the property “reasonably safe.” Suppose the victim of a slip and fall decides to sue. One of the factors the court will consider is the defendants’ efforts to keep the property safe.
What occupiers in the province must remember is Newfoundland and Labrador’s court of appeal sets the following principles:
- Occupiers must ensure that all persons on their property are reasonably safe.
- The burden of proof is on the claimant, meaning you must prove that the occupier’s or employees’ negligent actions or inactions -was the cause of your injuries or property damage.
- The occupier or property owner may use safety inspection, maintenance, and monitoring logs as a defense.
- The occupier is not a guarantor or insurer of the safety of the persons coming on his premises.
How does the court determine liability after a slip and fall accident in Newfoundland and Labrador?
As mentioned, the principles of negligence apply if someone gets injured while on your property. Because of that, it is up to the claimant to prove:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. Occupiers do not owe a duty of care to criminals and trespassers (keep reading).
- What is the standard of care imposed? The court considers the occupier’s efforts to keep the space reasonably safe. “Reasonably safe” does not mean 100% safe.
- The defendant breached the duty of care. Failure to keep the property reasonably safe is a breach of duty.
- The claimant/plaintiff suffered injury or property damage.
How to determine liability after a slip and fall accident in Newfoundland
For the court to hold the occupier or property owner liable, one or all the following must be true.
- The property owner or employee was directly or indirectly responsible for the accident. For example, maybe an employee forgot to put up a slippery floor sign, or you failed to warn visitors of an existing slip and fall hazard.
- An employee, property owner, or occupier knew there was a danger on the premises. This makes it vital to keep records of safety inspection logs.
- The property owner or an employee knew or should have known of the dangerous surface.
“Knew or should have known” means that a reasonable person working on the property would have discovered and eliminated the slip and fall hazard.
What to do after a slip and fall accident in Newfoundland
If you suffer an injury on someone else’s property, legal experts recommend that you do the following:
- Determine the at-fault party. Was the fall a consequence of your actions, or was it the consequence of the actions or inactions of the property owner? To that end, check the hazard. Are there signs warning you of the danger? Did you enter a restricted area?
- Gather evidence at the scene. Take pictures of the hazard, and your injuries, and collect witness testimonies and information. You may also obtain surveillance camera footage.
- Report the accident to the property owner or occupier.
- Do not admit fault at the scene. Note. If your actions cause property damage, the owner may have grounds to file a lawsuit.
- Seek medical attention before you comment about your health.
- File an insurance claim if you have personal injury cover.
- Keep records of medical expenses, including out-of-pocket expenses.
- Consult with an attorney if you intend to take legal action.
- Serve notice to the property owner within the set time (your attorney will advise).
What to do if someone gets injured while on your property in Newfoundland
For property owners, the risks are
(1) The victim may take civil action.
(2) You may face criminal negligence charges if the victim suffers serious injuries or death. Because of that, experts recommend that you do the following:
- Offer reasonable assistance to the victim.
- Do not admit fault at the scene. You should advise employees never to admit fault.
- Gather evidence, including pictures of the scene, warning signs at the scene, and anything else you may use in your defense.
- Take steps to correct the hazard and keep logs of inspections.
- Review and save surveillance footage.
Remember, a previous appeal court ruling holds that quote:
“When faced with a prima facie case of negligence, the occupier can generally discharge the evidential burden by establishing he has a regular regime of inspection, maintenance, and monitoring sufficient to achieve a reasonable balance between what is practical in the circumstances and what is commensurate with reasonably perceived potential risk to those lawfully on the property. An occupier’s conduct in this regard is to be judged not by the result of his errors (whether the plaintiff was injured) but by the efforts themselves.”
Who is liable to pay for slip and fall injuries in Newfoundland and Labrador?
After reviewing evidence and witness testimonies, the court will designate liability based on guidelines in the province’s Contributory Negligence Act.
Newfoundland and Labrador Comparative Negligence Act section 2(1) states that, quote:
“Whereby the fault of 2 or more persons damage or loss is caused to 1 or more of them, the liability to make good the damage or loss shall be in proportion to the degree in which each person was at fault.
“Where, having regard to the circumstances of the case, it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, the liability shall be apportioned equally.”
Consequently, the property owner may argue that a slip and fall victim was partially or fully responsible for his injuries. Remember, the burden of proof is on the claimant, and if you can prove that the victim was responsible for the accident, you are not liable to pay.
To that end, legal experts recommend that you do the following.
- If there is a hazard on your property, inform visitors or put a warning sign. For instance, if you are cleaning the floor or the tiles are slippery. Put up a slippery floor sign.
- Install surveillance equipment on your property. Footage of the incident will make it easier to designate fault.
- Regularly inspect your property and keep records of inspection and maintenance.
- If you find a slip and fall hazard, remove it as soon as possible.
How does the court apportion liability in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Section 8, “apportionment of liability for costs” reads, quote:
“Unless the judge otherwise directs, the liability for costs of the parties to an action shall be in the same proportion as their respective liability to make good the damage or loss, and where, as between 2 persons, 1 is entitled to a judgment for an excess of damage or loss and the other to a judgment for an excess of costs, there shall be a set-off of the respective amounts and judgment shall be given accordingly.”
What to remember
- Your share of fault for the accident diminishes the amount you may recover.
- If the at-fault party is unclear, the court will apportion liability equally.
Willing assumption of risk
Under Canadian law, property owners do not owe a duty of care to anyone who willingly assumes a risk. You may assume risk through writing, using words, or through action. Consequently, if a visitor willingly assumes the risk and gets injured on your property, the property owner or occupier is not liable to pay.
Also, the law assumes that criminals willingly assume the risk, meaning you do not owe criminals a duty of care.
Do you owe trespassers a duty of care in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Under provincial laws, you owe trespassers a limited duty of care. Consequently, you should not intentionally install traps or anything that may injure anyone on your property.
In other words, do not act in reckless disregard for human safety.
Remember, the Newfoundland and Labrador Trespass Act says quote:
“A person has had notice not to trespass when posters or signboards are visibly displayed (a) at places where normal access is obtained to the land; and (b) at fence corners or, where there is no fence, at each corner of the land. (3) A person who contravenes subsection (1), whether or not damage results, is guilty of an offense and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than $10 or more than $200.”