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Cities Have Duty to Maintain Streets to Prevent Serious Injury

The Advocate Files: Serious Injury – City Maintenance


Toronto Personal Injury Paul Cahill - Serving Toronto, Oakville and GTA`

Cities Have Duty to Maintain Streets to Prevent Serious Injury

Comment by: Paul CahillToronto Personal Injury Lawyer at Will Davidson LLP.

A recent court decision involving a car crash that left a man quadriplegic serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining municipal infrastructure for the public’s safety, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Paul Cahill.

In Chiocchio v Ellis, 2016 ONSC 7570 (CanLII), the plaintiff was a passenger in a minivan driving north when it was struck by a car heading west from an intersection.

Although the car made a stop at the sign before proceeding, a stop line painted about half a metre after the sign would have provided better visibility of oncoming traffic, the decision says. The white line was faded from the pavement and the City of Hamilton failed to repaint it.

The plaintiff suffered a fractured cervical spine and was rendered a quadriplegic.

In the end, the judge found the city was 50 per cent liable, with the driver of the car holding the other half of the responsibility for the crash.

While most municipal liability cases are very fact-specific, Cahill, partner with Will Davidson LLP, says this decision was reasonable.

“This is a very dangerous intersection and to get a safe line of sight of oncoming traffic, a vehicle has drive up to the stop line and if the paint is faded, drivers have to exercise their best judgment,” says Cahill, who comments generally and was not involved with the case.

“In a way, it was almost a trap for drivers who couldn’t see a stop line and assumed they could stop at the sign. They didn’t realize they were putting themselves at significant risk of not seeing oncoming vehicles,” he tells Top Lawyers.

According to the judge’s written decision, there was a history of accidents at the intersection, located in Flamborough at the corner of Brock Road and 5th Concession West on a busy street located near a quarry.

Although the line needed to be repainted about twice a year, city workers failed to complete the work for nearly two years leading up to the crash, the decision says.

“Municipalities should know the importance of maintaining their infrastructure,” Cahill says. He points to evidence presented in this case that showed although city staff believed the lines were painted, there were no records to back that up.

“It goes without saying that records should be kept in the event there’s an allegation that the work was not done,” he says. “In the absence of a work order to prove otherwise, courts will likely assume it wasn’t completed.”

Often, courts give deference to municipalities that have so much maintenance to do, particularly in less severe accidents, such as slip-and-falls on icy sidewalks, Cahill says.

“The fact the plaintiff was rendered a quadriplegic may have contributed to the finding of liability against the city,” he says. “Although strictly speaking from a legal perspective, it’s irrelevant. That being said, the courts will have more sympathy for people with serious injuries and this man’s injuries were catastrophic.”

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Paul Cahill focuses his practice on serious personal injury matters. If you or a person you love has been catastrophically injured in a car accident, contact Paul Cahill for a free, no obligation consultation.

View the profile of this Car Accident Lawyer in Toronto


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