Case Commentary: Flowers v Allterrain Contracting Inc., 2017 NSSC 194

The recent case of Flowers v Allterrain Contracting Inc., 2017 NSSC 194, confirmed that the standard for snow removal and maintenance is reasonableness, not perfection. The standard of reasonableness is measured against the evidence that the Defendant introduces as to what snow removal and maintenance practices are in place. Snow removal practices do not have to be ideal to be reasonable.

On February 17, 2010, the Plaintiff slipped and fell on ice when exiting a Wal-Mart store in Halifax. She sued the owner of the property and the snow removal company for compensation for her injuries. Because of the contractual relationship between the owner and the snow removal company (Allterrain), Allterrain provided the Defence. The Court was only asked to look at liability as damages were already agreed upon if the Defendants were found liable.

At trial, Allterrain gave evidence that it had a standard practice of snow removal at the property. All entrances were pre-salted prior to the first snowfall to melt the snow as it fell. Snowfall would then be managed as it occurred using a variety of equipment and labourers. The goal was to continue to clean and salt the pavement until it was black.

To help determine liability, the Court looked to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, SNS 1996, c.27, s.4, and case law which clearly stated that the duty of care owed by occupiers in relation to their premises is a duty of reasonableness, not perfection.

In applying the standard of reasonableness, the Court stated at paragraph 39 that the question is not whether there was ice in the area (where the Plaintiff fell), but rather whether the Defendant had a “reasonable and adequate system in place for keeping the area free of ice.” Although the Allterrain’s evidence did not show specific or repeated inspections of the area where the Plaintiff fell or when or how much salt was used, the Court found that the system, while not ideal, was reasonable.

The Court said at paragraph 43 that it did not “interpret the law to impose a duty of repeated and documented salting and inspection to the point of ensuring that every inch of area is ice-free at any given moment.”

The claim against the Defendants was dismissed with costs to be agreed upon.