Gross Negligence

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has upheld a decision which found that the City of Mississauga’s response to a winter storm event was reasonable, Billings v. Mississauga (City), 2011 ONCA 247, [2011] O.J. No. 1449 (C.A.).

The plaintiff, Douglas Billings, claimed injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident on a City sidewalk following a major snow and ice storm.

The sidewalk in question had not been cleared of snow and ice within 36 hours after the winter storm.  The City’s snow removal policy required that snow and ice be removed from sidewalks within 36 hours and the City had failed to meet that target. Nevertheless, the trial judge found that the storm had been an extraordinary event. The trial judge carefully reviewed the City’s systems, personnel and policies for dealing with snow storms and concluded that the City’s response to the storm was "completely reasonable."  The City’s response to the storm did not amount to “gross negligence”, which is the standard mandated by statute.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge’s conclusion.

This case should assist municipalities in defending claims of personal injury caused by snow or ice on a municipal sidewalk. It is interesting that the City was found to have acted reasonably even though it did not meet its objective of clearing snow and ice from sidewalks within 36 hours after a storm event.

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