Understanding a Barrie Property Owner’s Duty of Care

There are several laws in Ontario governing the responsibility of a property owner. First, the Occupier’s Liability Act requires them to take proactive steps to make the premises reasonably safe.

The second is common law, which states that landowners owe a duty of care to protect people who enter their property from foreseeable harm. Steps a property owner can take to uphold their duty of care include installing proper lighting, salting and sanding when necessary, and reasonable inspections – in a grocery store, for example – to ensure that there is not debris on the ground.

If you still have questions about the responsibilities of local proprietors, let one of our lawyers help improve your understanding of a Barrie property owner’s duty of care. A premises liability lawyer at our firm could also offer insight on whether you have a valid claim for compensation if you were injured on someone else’s property.

What Happens if a Local Property Owner is Unaware of Their Obligations?

Being unaware of their obligation is not a valid defense for potentially negligent property owners. There is a phrase in the legal profession that says, “Ignorance to the law is no defense,” and that applies here.

They cannot argue that while their property was unsafe, they did not know they had to make it safe. If someone owns a property in Barrie or anywhere else in Ontario, they have to make it reasonably safe for people to enter, otherwise they have to prevent access. A landowner who fails to do so will likely be found liable in the event of an injury.

How Does a Property Owner’s Duty Change between Different Classifications of Visitors?

A previous body of law indicated that landowners may have to exercise different levels of care depending on whether the visitor is an invitee or, for instance, a trespasser. However, the trend in recent case law has been to apply the same standard of care to anyone that enters the property.

Where a property owner’s duty of care would vary depends on foreseeability. For instance, if a trespasser climbs over a fence and goes on a property into an area where the public is not reasonably expected to be or allowed to be, one can argue that it is not reasonably foreseeable that the trespasser would be in that area. The duty may not come into play in that case.

The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

A landowner’s standard of care with respect to a child has to do with whether they expect children to be on the premises. For instance, if they are operating a play area, have a jungle gym, or operate a restaurant with a play area for kids, there is an expectation that there are going to be young people at their place of business. In other words, the standard of care and safety that property owners in Barrie must put in place applies to the people whom they expect to be there.

Another example of the attractive nuisance doctrine would be when a local proprietor owns a pool that is often left unsupervised. If a child in the neighborhood finds their way into the unattended pool and subsequently drowns, the owner of that property could be held liable in a successful Family Law Act claim.

How Does the Duty of Care Differ between Public and Private Properties?

With respect to private property, the owner is liable if they are negligent in their maintenance of the premises and an accident occurs as a result.

In cases dealing with public property, injured claimants need to prove a higher standard of care. To pursue a case against the municipality, they have to prove that the municipality in the maintenance of a sidewalk, for example, was grossly negligent and is therefore responsible for any resulting injuries.

A property owner’s duty of care applies to everyone, regardless of whether they are an invitee, guest, a customer, or a trespasser, but issues of foreseeability and expectation can come into play, depending on the facts. Let a lawyer at our firm help you understand Barrie’s standard of care for property owners. Call us today to learn more.

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