Personal Injury & ICBC Claims

Occupier’s Liability

In British Columbia owners and occupier’s of property are required to ensure the property is reasonably safe for all persons using the property. This obligation is set out in the Occupiers Liability Act which defines an occupier to include those who have both physical possession of the premises and those who have responsibility for and control over the premises. Accordingly, in certain circumstances there can be more than one occupier as may be the case with a landlord and tenant. The term premises is broadly defined and, in addition to land and structures, includes ships, trailers, railway cars and aircraft (while stationary).

The Act limits the liability of an occupier for the negligence of an independent contractor (for example, a contractor conducting repairs or renovations) if the occupier took reasonable care in the selection and supervision of the contractor. In such a case any injury claim would be made directly against the contractor. The Act also limits the liability of occupiers to trespassers and to persons on farm or recreational property in certain circumstances. The Act does not apply to the Provincial or Federal Governments in respect to highways. In such cases any injury claim caused in part by the condition of the highway may include a claim against the Ministry and any maintenance companies responsible for maintaining the highway.

Not all injuries on premises result in successful claims against the occupier. Where the occupier has left a dangerous hazard on the premises which causes an injury (such as an unlit stairwell) the occupier’s liability may be easily established. However, the occupier can avoid liability by proving that a program of regular maintenance and inspection of the premises was in place and was carried out at the time the injury occurred. Consequently, many injuries resulting from slips and falls at shopping malls and grocery stores will not attract liability and damages if a program of inspection was both in place and performed at a reasonable time before the injury occurred. Please contact us for assistance in determining whether or not an injury caused on premises in British Columbia will support a claim against an occupier.