Unsafe Use Does Not Equal Unsafe Handrail

Aron Bookman and Annie Olson of Carfra Lawton were successful in having the Plaintiff’s claim dismissed on summary trial in Slater v Courtenay (City), 2021 BCSC 1678.

In Slater, the 23-year-old plaintiff was cutting through two parking lots in downtown Courtenay in search of a taxi after a night out with his friends. The parking lots were divided by a staircase with metal handrails, and the plaintiff decided to slide down one of these handrails rather than walk down the stairs. As a result, the momentum of his body and the position of his hand against a horizontal support bar that ran beneath the handrail caused his index finger to become partially severed.

The plaintiff alleged that Courtenay ought to have known that the 30-year-old handrail was a hazard and should have inspected or repaired the handrail. Justice A. Saunders disagreed, finding that there was no evidence of any previous injuries, no evidence that any danger associated with the handrail would have been made apparent on inspection, and no evidence that the handrail was a hazard if used as intended—as a support for people walking up and down the stairs.

There was no expectation that Courtenay ought to have foreseen injuries arising from the plaintiff’s abnormal use of the handrail, and Justice A. Saunders noted that “to find otherwise would be to hold the defendant to a standard of perfection, and that is not the law.”