The year 2020 has been a year filled with many changes, including a very important change to Ontario's Occupiers' Liability Act. That Act, or OLA for short, is provincial legislation that sets out the responsibilities of occupiers of private land, and the liability that may flow from the neglect of these responsibilities. The provisions set out in the OLA apply to owners and leaseholders of private land, and independent contractors employed by occupiers to maintain the condition of the premises.
Not Just Slip and Fall
The change in the legislation, which received Royal Assent on December 8, 2020, and which will come into effect on a date to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, establishes a special notice period in Ontario in circumstances where someone is injured by snow or ice on privately-owned property. The legislation does not set out any means or mechanism of injury by which the notice requirement is triggered - the only requirement is that the injury is caused by snow or ice. Therefore, the scope of this notice requirement goes beyond slipping and falling and would presumably apply to injuries caused, for example, by falling snow and ice.
New 60 Day Notice
The applicable legislative notice period is now 60 days from the date of the injury. This notice must be provided in writing, and must set out the date, time and location of the occurrence. Additionally, the notice must be personally served on, or sent by registered mail to, either an occupier or an independent contractor employed by an occupier to remove snow or ice on the subject premises at the material time. This notice need only be served on one of the parties referred to in the legislation; if notice is properly provided to at least one of the required parties, the 60-day limitation period no longer applies even if a party to a later lawsuit did not receive notice.
The 60-day notice requirement does not apply in circumstances where the injured party dies as a result of the injury. Moreover, a defence to the invocation of the notice requirement, similar to that established by the Municipal Act, is the showing of a "reasonable excuse" for the delay in providing notice and an absence of prejudice. However, in most cases the legislation will prohibit a lawsuit moving forward if notice was not provided within 60 days, making it critical that notice is provided within the required time.
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