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Watch where you’re going! A nurse responding to an agitated patient found to be negligently walking

In Faircrest v Buchanan 2015 BCSC 657 a volunteer at a facility operated by a health authority was standing in the hallway of the facility observing a patient who was becoming increasingly agitated when a nurse, who was responding to the patient, unintentionally bumped into the volunteer. The volunteer fell down and suffered a fractured hip and some soft tissue injuries.

The volunteer sued the health authority under the Occupiers Liability Act. The allegation was not that there were design flaws or dangers inherent in the property; the allegation was that the health authority should have warned volunteers “that nurses might move quickly through the Lodge when responding to a patient in crisis.” The Court dismissed this portion of the claim stating that it was not reasonable for the health authority to “have foreseen the risk and taken steps to prevent it.”

The volunteer also alleged the nurse was liable for “negligent walking.” The Court stated that the nurse had a duty to react quickly to the patient but that did not permit her to be “heedless of other persons standing or walking…who might be in her path,” and found that the nurse caused the collision by failing to notice the presence of the plaintiff. The Court found the health authority vicariously liable for the nurse’s negligence.

The court also found that the plaintiff was 40% responsible for the collision because the plaintiff should have moved out of the way when she realized that staff would have to respond quickly to the patient’s agitation.

Case law summary by: Trevor Morley