Mitigating the Risks of Occupiers’ Liability in B.C.
Note: This article does not contain legal advice. If you would like advice on your specific situation or occupiers’ liability, please contact Spraggs Law.
Jessica Spraggs, Vancouver lawyer, discusses the implications of occupiers’ liability, where the owner, manager or renter may be liable for accidents that occur on the property.
Recently, our Coquitlam law office was startled by the appearance of a strange person on our fire escape. Our inner alarm bells rang, and not just because our fire escape is not easy to access and is plastered with prominent “no trespassing” signs.
Our legal team was alarmed because we also have had first-hand experience with the legal concept of occupier’s liability, an area of civil law that affects just about everyone in British Columbia.
Our immediate concern was to find out just what the individual was doing on the fire escape. A team member who oversees the facilities checked things out, and saw the person removing anti-slip grip tape from the staircase.
On top of that, an accomplice was stuffing the tape into garbage bags.
The accomplice then ran across the street with the removed tape. And, more incredibly, the first individual next pretended to fall down the fire escape stairs!
Luckily, our team member saw the whole thing and took plenty of photographs and video –extremely important, since as “occupiers” of our law office in Coquitlam, Spraggs Law has a duty to ensure the safety of any person who enters the property.
And that duty-of-care must even include trespassers.
All Have a Duty to Ensure Visitors are Reasonably Safe
So, what is an occupier according to British Columbia law? Occupiers are those who have control over the premises. So, an occupier could be owners, lessees, management companies, and so on. It all depends on the circumstances.
The legal concept of “occupier’s liability” means that occupiers such as Spraggs Law in this case all have a duty to ensure visitors are reasonably safe while on the premises. This includes keeping visitors safe from physical risks from the property, such as tripping or slipping.
Visitors must also be kept safe while participating in activities on the premises, such as a fitness class. Such physical risks could include even unforeseen events.
For example, a bar fight could also be considered such an on-premises activity.
How Can I Manage the Risk of Occupier’s Liability?
In most cases, there is occupier’s liability insurance can help mitigate the risk of unforeseen events happening on the property you occupy. Note that liability insurance is not always available for residential properties – sometimes tenants do not have insurance.
If you are an occupier, as a rule of thumb:
- Make sure you have insurance that covers occupier’s liability claims
- Conduct regular inspections of the premises and fix or take steps to prevent injury in a timely manner
- Place warning signs where there are risks
- Keep logs and records of inspections, maintenance, and repairs
In this last case, for example, our maintenance log at Spraggs Law would show that the fire escape had been regularly inspected, and that there were no issues with the tape the morning of the incident.
In certain situations, such as a building site, or when operating an attraction of some sort, obtain waivers of liability from anyone engaging in physical activities on the premises.
And remember that waivers do not automatically protect an occupier from legal liability: there are specific requirements that make waivers effective, and to make sure your waiver is enforceable, you should speak with a lawyer.
If you are injured on a property:
- Obviously, seek medically assistance
- Take photos of whatever caused the injury; if you cannot do this because of injury, try to have someone go back and take photos ASAP
- Ask for witness name and contact info
- Be aware that any statements you give to the owner or manager of the facility can be used as evidence later
And, as always, if you signed a waiver, it may not be enforceable. Speak with a lawyer before assuming that the waiver will apply.
Need help with a legal issue? Contact the team at Spraggs Law
Do you need help with a legal issue? Spraggs Law can help. Give us a call at 604-359-1627 for a free consultation to discuss how we can offer personalized assistance based on your circumstances.