Municipal policy to inspect sidewalks creates duty, despite owner/occupier bylaw
The plaintiff in Scheck v. Parkdale Place Housing Society et al, 2018 BCSC 938 and 2019 BCSC 48, slipped and fell on a snow-covered public sidewalk next to her seniors’ residence in Summerland. Summerland had passed a bylaw that required every owner or occupier of real property to remove snow and ice from the sidewalks bordering that property.
It had also issued a policy manual that required it to inspect sidewalks daily for snow and ice, to enforce the bylaw. For budgetary reasons, it did not conduct these inspections.
Ms. Scheck sued the operator of her seniors’ residence (Parkdale) and the municipality. The court ruled that, in spite of the bylaw, Parkdale did not possess or control the sidewalk as an occupier, and owed no duty to clear it of snow. The court also ruled that Summerland’s bylaw was a valid policy to allocate finite resources, and that it immunised Summerland from any duty to make the sidewalk safe. However, Summerland’s policy manual did create a duty to inspect the sidewalk each day, and the municipality’s failure to do so was held to be an operational decision not protected by the policy immunity defence. Summerland was held liable for Ms. Scheck’s injuries.
Case summary by Stuart Wright