The duty of care for janitorial contractors is reasonableness and not perfection; they do not have to remove every possibility of danger. In a recent Ontario Superior Court decision, the Court held that occupiers are not responsible for every single accident.
In Martin v AGO et al., the plaintiff, a lawyer and a regular visitor to the Hamilton Court House, claimed that the owners, property manager, and janitorial contractor of the Court House were negligent and breached their duty of care according to section 3(1) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act. While the plaintiff was walking along the Court House’s main hallway, he slipped on a small amount of water from a wet umbrella and tore his hamstring.
The plaintiff alleged that the janitorial contractor failed to implement a system of inspections, or if such a system was in place, the day porter on duty failed to carry it out. Further, the plaintiff argued that floor inspections were not listed as one of the porter’s duties and there were no logs to confirm that the porter had completed them. Relying on case law where the janitorial contractors had no specific system to monitor conditions of floors, the plaintiff sought damages for his injury.
However, the Court accepted the day porter’s evidence that the building had a fairly robust maintenance system, which she effected on the day of the accident. Not only did the porter complete four full inspections for all seven floors of the building, she carefully placed yellow caution signs; the nearest sign was approximately 27 feet from where the plaintiff fell. She also placed large industrial mats at each of the main entrances, ensuring that visitors had to step on the mats to enter the courthouse. Moreover, the defendants alleged that they implemented a work order protocol where anyone could their call center to report a mess that required immediate attention, including any spills. Once an event was reported, the day porter would be contacted by phone or walkie-talkie to address the matter.
The Court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, holding that the defendants’ system of inspection, mats, signs, and work order procedure met the requisite standard of care. The Occupiers’ Liability Act expects reasonableness, not perfection. It does not require an occupier to remove every possibility of danger.
Sometimes the plaintiff is partly responsible for their injuries. In this case, the Court assessed the plaintiff’s contributory negligence at 30%, since the rubber soles of the shoes he wore were approximately 30% worn down.
This decision is a reminder for occupiers that it is best practice to have a system of inspection and maintenance in place and detailed logs to document that they are carrying out their duties. When coupled with preventative measures such as mats and cautions signs, it can help establish that the required standard of care is met to discharge liability.
In this case, the Court assessed the plaintiff’s contributory negligence at 30%, since the rubber soles of the shoes he wore were approximately 30% worn down.