City Liable for Rollerbladers’ Injuries

This case comes from our neighbours in Alberta.

Two rollerbladers are injured in separate accidents on city land. The land was designed by the City of Calgary, and is available to the public for recreational use. In one accident, rollerblader Christensen crashes when unable to make a turn at the bottom of a hill. In a second accident, after the City posts a new warning sign, rollerblader Gaston drops to the ground and strikes a pole.

An expert in rollerblading (or “in-line skating”) surveys the hill where both men are injured. The expert says the hill is dangerous for beginner to intermediate-level skaters, and challenging for expert-level skaters. The expert rates Mr. Christensen as an average rollerblader, and Mr. Gaston as average to above average.

The Trial Judge looks to Alberta’s Occupiers Liability Act (OLA). Section five of the OLA says an occupier owes a duty of care to ensure the safety of its visitors. So the City must ensure that the rollerbladers are reasonably safe when rollerblading on the designated property.

The Trial Judge finds that the City failed to consider the safety of the skaters when designing the pathway where the rollerbladers were injured. The City says it would be too expensive to change the hill, and that changes would not likely be approved because of environmental sensitivities in the area.

The Trial Judge says that the slope, sight lines, curves, and barriers all contribute to the unsafe terrain. She says the City is negligent for failing to ensure that their property was reasonably safe for rollerbladers. Mr. Christenson and Mr. Gaston are found partly at fault for failing to properly look out for their own safety.

The City appeals the decision in Christensen v. Calgary (City). But the Trial Judge’s decision is upheld by the Court of Appeal.

In BC, it’s important to remember that when suing a city, you must give written notice to the municipality within two months from the date of an accident. For more information, read Aimee King‘s blog post: Suing a Municipality? Remember the 2 Month Rule.

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Saro Turner
Saro joined Slater Vecchio LLP in June 2009. In addition to compensation for pain and suffering, he has obtained compensation for past and future loss of income, health care expenses and more.