City liable for one inch crack in sidewalk…

City liable for one inch crack in sidewalk…

In the recent decision of Worthey v. City of Hamilton, a municipality was found liable for injuries sustained by an 89 year old woman after she tripped and fell on a raised crack in the sidewalk.  The crack was less than one inch in height.  As a result of the trip and fall, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries including a fractured wrist and hip.

The court held that the crack in the sidewalk constituted an unreasonable safety hazard in the circumstances.  Further, the court held that the city failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the hazard, either by way of proper inspection or repair.  More particularly, the city only inspected the sidewalks once per year through observation, and in this particular case it missed an inspection a year prior to the fall.  As such, the city failed to follow its own policies.

The court also found the plaintiff to be 30% at fault for failing to keep a proper lookout for hazards while walking.

This case serves as a reminder that even minor defects in a surface or walkway can constitute a hazard from a legal point of view.  Municipalities and other occupiers owe a duty to reasonably maintain sidewalks and surfaces so as to minimize the risks of such hazards.  A failure to reasonably follow maintenance policies may result in a finding of liability against a municipality or other occupier.  Further, individuals must also act reasonably with regards to their own safety or they will bear some of the responsibility for the injury.

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