In Osmond v Watkins, 2017 ONSC 5729 (CanLII), the defendant successfully brought a summary judgment motion against his contractor. The defendant, Watkins, hired the plaintiff, Osmond, to complete some renovations at his home. While on the roof installing tarpaper, the plaintiff slipped and fell approximately 37 feet onto bricks and debris.
He brought an action against the homeowner, Watkins, claiming the accident was caused by defendant’s negligence and breach of the Occupiers Liability Act. The plaintiff’s examination for discovery evidence was that he was not wearing safety equipment, he was not aware he was supposed to wear safety equipment, and he never turned his mind to using safety equipment. Further, on the motion, the plaintiff led no evidence that his fall was caused by any defect in or lack of repair affecting the premises or any hazardous conditions associated with the premises themselves.
As a result, the court found that the only basis for liability of the defendant would be in negligence for not providing the plaintiff with the necessary safety equipment to perform roofing work on the project. The court relied on an Alberta Court of Appeal decision, Mahe v Boulianne, 2010 ABCA 32 (CanLII), that held where a lay person engages a professional or tradesman, it is presumed that the tradesman knows how to do the work and if the tradesman fails to do the work properly, he cannot blame his customer on the basis that the customer should have known better. The court went on to note that the defendant, as the occupier of premises, must ensure that the premises are reasonably safe. The defendant had no overriding duty to monitor the whether the practices followed by the plaintiff were safe. The defendant’s motion was granted. Had the plaintiff led evidence that he had informed the defendant that he was inexperienced in performing roofing work or that the scope of work was outside of his comfort level, there may have been an issue for trial.
This case confirms that, on summary judgment, unless a plaintiff is able to show, with evidence, that there was a hazard on the premises that caused the accident, a defendant may be successful in having the case dismissed.
See Osmond v Watkins, 2017 ONSC 5729 (CanLII)
Fiona Brown has an insurance law practice that has focused exclusively on insurance defence for 20 years. Fiona defends insurance claims covering all aspects of general insurance liability including motor vehicle accidents, occupiers’ liability, slip and falls, social host liability, and general negligence claims.