Municipal Liability for Sidewalks

Most of the time, the sidewalk in your neighbourhood is probably a safe and convenient place to go for a stroll.  However, sometimes sidewalks can shift, crack, deteriorate, and in the winter season (particularly this one) become covered in ice or snow.  When a dangerous condition is present and leads to a fall and injury, can the municipality be held responsible?

If the condition was related to the accumulation of ice or snow, a municipality will only be held responsible if it was “grossly negligent” in its failure to keep the sidewalk clear.  Gross negligence has not been clearly or consistently defined by Ontario’s courts.  Rather, it has been said that a finding of gross negligence depends on the facts of each case.  If the condition was not related to ice or snow, standard principles of negligence apply.  In other words, if the municipality acted unreasonably and this caused injury, liability may follow.

There are very short notice provisions for injuries occurring on municipal property.  As such, it is important to bring such injuries to the attention of a lawyer or the appropriate municipal office as soon as possible.

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.