One of my holiday guests slipped on the icy front steps of my home. Am I liable for their injuries?
Whether you are a tenant or a homeowner, you owe duties to your guests. In Ontario, one place this duty is defined is under section 3 of the Occupier’s Liability Act, which requires an occupier of a premises to “take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable” to ensure people entering and using the premises are reasonably safe.
As the legislation suggests, what constitutes “reasonable care” is highly dependent of the circumstances of a case. This is especially true when it comes to snow and ice removal from outdoor walkways, porches and stairs. However, there are some general guidelines which can help someone meet their obligations.
An occupier is expected to make efforts to remove snow and ice from outdoor walkways following winter weather events. The timing and degree of such efforts increases significantly if guests are expected. Icy areas should be salted, and, if possible, ice should be removed with a shovel or other tool. Outdoor stairs are a particularly dangerous area, and additional care should be headed in keeping steps clear of ice and snow.
Upon the circumstance of a guest’s injury on your premises you should document the conditions which caused the injury and notify your home owner insurance company of the incident immediately.