Liability of Municipalities for Road Repair

As winter slowly fades and spring melts the snow on our local roads, we are reminded of the damage done by a long season of plowing, salting, sanding and freeze/thaw cycles. This time of year, the potholes, bumps and ridges on our roads can make driving a real challenge.

Municipalities are responsible for maintaining and repairing most of the roads we use every day. Under the Municipal Act, 2001, a municipality must keep its roads in “a state of repair that is reasonable in the circumstances”. Furthermore, if a municipality fails to meets its obligations, it may be liable for the damages any person sustains as a result of the default.

However, the duty to keep roads in a reasonable state of repair extends far beyond just potholes and bumps. A municipality must maintain a roadway that is safe for the ordinary user – which means keeping it reasonably clear of ice and snow, and free of any dangers or obstructions within the travelled portions of the road. Recently, an Ontario appeal court found that a traffic signal pole mounted on a median in the middle of Yonge Street in Barrie was part of the travelled portion of the road, thereby triggering the City’s duty to ensure a state of reasonable repair was maintained.

Although a municipality can be found responsible for damages if it fails to maintain and repair a road, there are short notice periods that apply, and it is important that you speak with a lawyer quickly following an accident or injury.

About the Authors


Adam Little earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in 1996. He graduated from Queen’s University Faculty of Law in 2000 and was called to the bar in 2002. Adam was practicising on Bay Street for a leading Toronto litigation firm that represented doctors in medical malpractice claims when he realized that helping people through personal injury litigation was what he wanted to do. “I wanted to work for the best,” he said. A partner at Oatley Vigmond had written the best-known book available about addressing jury trials, which Adam had read and admired. He wrote to the partner, went through an intense interview process and became a partner at the firm in 2005.

To learn more about Adam, please click here.