Ignorance of the Law can be a Reasonable Excuse

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has held that the failure to give statutory notice within 10 days to the municipality, arising out of a slip and fall on an icy municipal sidewalk, is not a bar to an action where the injured person waited four months to give notice because (i) he had a serious injury, (ii) he didn't know about the law requiring him to give notice and (iii) he was depressed. He did not give notice to the City until he was contacted by a lawyer four months after the slip and fall.

At para. 37 the Court held that the plaintiff "acknowledged that he simply did not know that he was required to give notice to the City within ten days, and that he ultimately did so when he was contacted by a lawyer. Given his mental state and the reasons for it, it is hardly surprising that until then, he did not turn his mind to it."

Further, at para. 38, he had "suffered a serious injury requiring a prolonged period of rehabilitation, during which he was deeply worried about his job, his ability to provide for his family, and whether he would ever be able to return to the only career he had known. He was understandably depressed. In these circumstances, not knowing he was required give notice to the respondent, it was reasonable that he did not do so until the end of June."

The Court of Appeal also considered whether the City was grossly negligent and concluded it was so. The City knew that the sidewalks were icy for 34 hours before the slip and fall yet did not salt the sidewalk where the plaintiff fell. The City's own patrol records showed it had knowledge.

The decision is Crinson v. Toronto (City), 2010 ONCA 44, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, per Goudge and LaForme JJ.A., with Juriansz J.A. concurring, overturning the decision of Justice Blenus Wright of the Superior Court of Justice, dated February 20, 2009, with reasons reported at (2009), 57 M.P.L.R. (4th) 221.

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