In the recent case of Brown v. Marriott, Ontario’s Superior Court provided further guidance on the obligation of occupiers to take reasonable measures to ensure persons entering on premises are reasonably safe.
The facts were not in dispute and when they are reviewed, it is clear (perhaps only in hindsight) that the writing was on the wall.
Briefly, the plaintiff slipped on a recently mopped floor in a hotel lobby and sustained injuries as a result. The entirety of the accident circumstances, from the time the plaintiff entered the premises until the fall, was captured on a security camera. The court noted that the plaintiff was in no particular rush. The existence of an entirely documented sequence makes this case unique given that security camera tape is often incomplete, usually providing fragments of the circumstances of an incident. The video depicted the plaintiff entering the lobby and speaking with a guest services representative of hotel. While that conversation took place, a cleaner employed by the hotel began to mop the area behind the plaintiff. The cleaner had placed one caution sign in the area that was recently mopped. The Guest Services employee was aware of the ongoing cleaning but did not mention it to the plaintiff, who was eventually directed to the elevator which required that he walk through the recently mopped area of the floor. He slipped and was injured. The General Manager of the hotel gave evidence that the Guest Services representative was required, as part of the hotel’s protocol, to advise the guest of the recently mopped floor. Moreover, the cleaner only placed one warning sign which did not accurately demarcate the area of danger.
The hotel was found liable as a result.
The takeaway: reasonable measures taken by an occupier to ensure safety usually requires an inspection protocol in place. If they do not have one, or if they have one and do not follow it, liability is likely to follow.
In this case, based on the facts agreed to by both plaintiff and defendant, the writing was on the wall.
See Brown v Marriott, 2016 ONSC 7619 (CanLII).