Ontario Place failed to warn the crowd to avoid a dangerous hill: court
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld Ontario Place's liability for an accident resulting in a serious knee injury after a concert in 2016.
In Lyng v. Ontario Place Corporation, 2024 ONCA 23, Ontario Place has lodged an appeal challenging a trial judge's decision that held them liable for damages resulting from injuries sustained by a concertgoer on their premises. The appeal stemmed from an incident in 2016 following a concert at Ontario Place.
The respondent, a 21-year-old attendee at the time, and his friend encountered a challenge as they sought to access the Exhibition GO station via a pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Blvd. The bridge, a preferred and direct route, was unexpectedly closed by two security guards. Faced with this obstacle, the respondent, his friend, and fellow concertgoers descended a nearby hill devoid of barricades or warnings. The respondent's friend testified that the hill was wet and slippery. The respondent, who followed his friend, fell and sustained a serious knee injury which required surgical repair.
At the time of the accident, the respondent had consumed alcohol, was wearing flip-flops, and testified that he had slipped as he neared the bottom of the hill.
The trial judge, invoking the Occupiers' Liability Act, found Ontario Place accountable for the injuries. The court's key findings included Ontario Place's failure to block access to the hazardous hill, awareness of the potential danger, and negligence in not warning patrons or erecting barriers. The judge attributed 75 percent liability to Ontario Place and 25 percent to the respondent, who contributed to the incident by jumping down the slope.
Ontario Place's appeal challenged the trial judge's ruling on causation, asserting that the respondent's decision to jump, rather than a slip, broke the chain of causation. However, the Ontario Court of Appeal declined to reevaluate the evidence, emphasizing the trial judge's adherence to legal principles and the lack of identified errors warranting intervention.
The appeal also questioned the trial judge's interpretation of the Occupiers' Liability Act, arguing that wet grass resulting from rainfall is not an unusual danger that necessitates preventive measures. Ontario Place contended that the trial judge erred in finding a breach of duty, citing precedents highlighting occupiers' exemption from protecting against every conceivable danger.
Furthermore, Ontario Place challenged the trial judge's decision that the respondent was the author of his misfortune. The appeal argued that the trial judge, having found the respondent contributorily negligent, should have dismissed the action entirely. However, the appellate court rejected this argument, asserting that the trial judge's findings on negligence by both parties were not inconsistent.
The court found that the trial judge did what the Occupiers' Liability Act directed him to do –he carefully considered what would have been reasonable in the circumstances. He concluded that Ontario Place failed to erect barriers and warn the crowd to avoid the hill. Ultimately, the court dismissed the appeal.