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lundi 1 octobre 2012

« Gray Rocks » vs. « black granite »


Par Marie-Hélène Beaudoin
McCarthy Tétrault

In Sonya Parris vs. Sitq International Inc., 2012 QCCQ 7051, the Court of Quebec was seized with a trip and fall case. The particularly interesting part of this decision is that the event occurred at 1000 de la Gauchetière, in Montreal, a building where many law firms have their offices. This building is well-traveled, being frequented by commuters, business people, tourists, skaters, etc. Applying the principles of Rubis v. Gray Rocks Inn Ltd., [1982] S.C.R. 452, the Court found that Plaintiff had not proven that the black granite and marble outside the building was intrinsically dangerous, that there was hidden danger and that there was a connotation of abnormality and surprise, and thus dismissed the case, refusing to grant $48,300.00 for pain and suffering and partial incapacity due to a twisted ankle.


The facts of the case can be summarized by quoting the following excerpts:


“[3]   Plainfiff testified that she did not notice that there was a "decline" in "the frontal landscaping, which is black granite and marble and merges with the sidewalk". She also stated that there was a "very subtle gradual step", which she could not see.

[…]


[4]   Plaintiff lost her footing, fell and twisted her left ankle inwards. 


[...] 

[18]   At trial, defendant's main witness, safety coordinator Martin Rivet, testified regarding defendant's maintenance policies and practices.

[19]   The evidence clearly showed that the building and the surrounding area were very well maintained. There were two other falls, in the the same area, in 2007 and 2008. However, given that the area is extremely busy and well-travelled and serves an office building, a bus terminal, a metro station, a train station, a skating rink, tourists and students, this does not seem unreasonable.

[20]   Defendant repaired and modified parts of the exterior terrace between 2004 and 2008. Rivet stated, "On a retiré la dalle de granite sur le bout du trottoir pour y faire une pente douce…pour que les gens allant de l'ouest vers l'est ne s'accrochent pas". There had been a complaint, in this regard, in the past.

[21]   However, Rivet described the area where plaintiff fell as being a "grande esplanade plate" with a "décroché fini en coin droit, noir sur un fond de granite pâle".
[22]   Defendant's "Rapport d'événement" (exhibit D-1) indicates that, after plaintiff's fall, the area was examined, but nothing was found to be out of order.”
The Court found that there could be no liability for the following reasons:

“[23]   Plaintiff had the burden of proof (s. 2803 and 2804 of the Civil Code of Quebec).

[24]   The onus of proving a fault or omission on defendant's part, by a preponderance of evidence, rested on plaintiff's shoulders. Unfortunately, she did not succeed in this regard.

[25]   There was no preponderant evidence that the area where plaintiff fell, was dangerous or unsafe; nor was there preponderant evidence to show that defendant failed to act in a prudent and diligent manner regarding maintenance and safety issues. In fact, the evidence showed quite the contrary.

[…]



[27]   Plaintiff stated, on several occasions, that she was not looking down as she was walking, but rather straight ahead. Unfortunately, this is what most likely caused her misstep and caused her to fall. However, the fact that plaintiff fell, does not, in itself, prove fault on defendant's part.
[28]   Whether the area contained a step or a gradual decline, the evidence did not show that the criteria of a) an intrisically dangerous situation; b) a hidden rather than apparent danger; and c) a connotation of abnormality and surprise, were present.”
 
The complete text of the decision is available here.
 


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