The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that municipalities are not immune from negligence or liability claims resulting from snow removal.
The case was initiated by a woman who injured her leg while climbing a snow bank in Nelson, British Columbia, in 2015.
Taryn Joy Marchi’s $ 1 million lawsuit (£ 590,000, $ 810,000) will now have a retrial.
Thursday’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada could spark an avalanche of lawsuits across the country.
Cities are not responsible for political decisions, but the court found that the snow removal act was operational.
The case attracted widespread attention, with the city of Toronto and the city of Abbotsford acting as interveners in the case, along with the attorneys general of the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.
Canadian cities already spend hundreds of millions each year on snow removal.
Ms. Marchi tried to sue the city of Nelson after injuring her leg while trying to climb a snowdrift to reach the sidewalk after parking her car.
The city had cleared several parking lots, piling snow along the sidewalk to the sidewalk, without clearing a path.
The first judge to hear Ms Marchi’s case stated that she had been “the author of her own misfortune” and had taken the risks when she climbed over the snowdrift. The court of first instance found snow removal to be a core policy of the city, and therefore free from controversy.
But the Supreme Court found that the decision was too broad: while the decision to provide snow removal can be considered a general municipal policy, the court ruled that the city’s choice of what to plow and what not to plow was not. .
“By plowing the parking lots on Baker Street, the City urged citizens to use them to access commercial activities along the street,” the ruling said.
“Plaintiff was trying to do just that when she fell into a snowdrift that had been created by the City during the snow removal.”
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