In a recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) Canada’s highest court overruled a B.C. trial Judge who had decided that the City of Nelson’s snow clearance and removal was an operational, not a policy decision, and therefore was immune from liability arising from Taryn Marchi’s negligence claims. Taryn Joy Marchi, a nurse, had parked her car in a parking spot on Baker Street. Seeing no other way of getting to the sidewalk she tried to cross the snowbank created by the City’s earlier snow plowing. In trying to climb the snowbank, she seriously injured her leg. She sued the City, alleging that the City had been negligent in not creating openings to access the sidewalk. At trial, her case was dismissed. She took her case to the BC Court of Appeal, and won the right to new trial. The City of Nelson appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In Nelson (City) v. Marchi 2021 SCC 41 Canada’s highest court ruled that the City’s snow removal decision was not a policy decision, which would have been a successful defence by the City, but an operational decision. As a result, the SCC held that the City of Nelson owed Ms. Marchi a duty of care. Unfortunately for Ms. Marchi, the SCC decision only clarified the law in this area but did not result in an award of damages for her injuries. The SCC agreed with the B.C. Court of Appeal and held that Mrs. Marchi should get a new trial to assess damages for her injured leg. The SCC decision has clarified the law in this area as to what decisions made by public authorities are immune from tort liability as policy decisions.
This article is intended to be an overview of the law and is for informational purposes only. Readers are cautioned that this article does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Rather, readers should obtain specific legal advice in relation to the issues they are facing.