What's Your Case Wednesday
Patrizia’s Case: Appeals, Civil Litigation, Negligence and Minimum Maintenance Standards
By Allan Rouben
Patrizia was driving to work early on a snowy morning in April. The roads in Milton were snow covered and slippery. Weather forecasts from the day before predicted an 80% chance of snow, yet the Town of Milton had not scheduled an evening patrol to monitor the roads and clear the snow. Tragically, as she was driving, Patrizia’s car spun out into oncoming traffic. She was seriously injured. Patrizia brought a claim against the Town of Milton and the Region of Halton for negligence in failing to monitor the weather forecasts and ensure the roads were safe. After a lengthy trial, Patrizia was successful in establishing her claim. But the matter didn’t end there. The defendants appealed the decision. They said the Minimum Maintenance Standards absolved them of responsibility, as the time required to deal with the situation had not yet been triggered. I became involved at that point, representing Patrizia on the appeal.
After meeting with Patrizia and her capable trial lawyer, all we could do was wait for the appeal papers to come in from the defendants. At that point, we would know the arguments they were making in support of the appeal and get our chance to respond. While the defendants did not take issue with the trial judge’s factual findings, they said he made legal errors in failing to give effect to the Minimum Maintenance Standards on the clearing of ice and snow. Based on their interpretation, they had more time before they were supposed to take action. After reviewing the transcripts, exhibits and legal arguments, I prepared a Factum on Patrizia’s behalf.
The stakes were high for everyone concerned. Municipalities were anxious for a decision interpreting the Minimum Maintenance Standards as they thought it should be. For Patrizia, the lengthy process was continuing. She was feeling the effects of her injuries and would do so for the rest of her life. If the defendants were successful, the judgment would be set aside and her claim would be dismissed. The Court of Appeal ruled in Patrizia’s favour, and said that, as the Minimum Maintenance Standards did not address the monitoring of weather forecasts or the scheduling of evening patrols, the defendants could not rely on them as a defence to the claim. But the case was still not over. The defendants asked the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal. They said the decision was an important one for municipalities and required the attention of our highest Court. Once again, we waited for their legal argument. Close to two years after the trial judge’s decision, the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave to appeal. For Patrizia, the lengthy process had finally come to an end.