Municipal government

Cast Sprinkler Head Cannot Trip Municipal Government Act Protections – Lawsuits, Appeals and Compensation

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In 2019 and 2020, our municipal litigation team successfully defended the City of Lethbridge against a Occupiers Liability Act complaint – and subsequent recourse – based on the provisions of the Municipal Government Act(MGA).

In Ellis v City of Lethbridge, 2019 ABPC 276, the City was sued after the plaintiff tripped over a dented sprinkler head and injured her ankle in the beer garden during a dragon boat festival in 2017. The festival was held in a city park that contains up to about 2,000 sprinkler heads. These sprinklers are designed to allow some movement in the ground for added safety.

Although the presence of the sprinkler head embedded in the beer garden led the trial judge to conclude that the city had breached the Occupiers Liability Act, the municipality was declared not liable under s. 530 of MGA. The fact that the city employed a system of inspection and maintenance driven by budgetary concerns and political decisions qualified it for protection under this article.

The plaintiff appealed (Ellis v City of Lethbridge2020 ABQB 783), but it was dismissed because the Court found that the trial did not commit a reversible error.

The takeaways from this case are:

  • s. 530 of MGA protect municipalities from most, but not all, liability under the Occupiers Liability Act; and

  • s. 530 can provide municipalities with occupant liability immunity if responsibility is for an inspection and maintenance system in place.

A complete breakdown of Ellis v City of Lethbridge can be read here.

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Originally published May 4, 2022

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