What Legal Duties Do Occupiers Have in British Columbia?
Have you been injured on premises belonging to someone else? You may be entitled to compensation through an occupiers’ liability claim.
The definition of an “occupier” can be found in Section 1 of British Columbia’s Occupiers Liability Act. An occupier “means a person who (a) is in physical possession of premises; or (b) has responsibility for, and control over, the condition of premises, the activities conducted on those premises and the persons allowed to enter those premises.”
Each occupier of the premises is obligated to ensure that a person on the premises is “reasonably safe.” This is known as the duty of care. Before you can bring an occupiers’ liability claim, you must first establish that an occupier breached the duty of care owed to you.
For a free review of your occupiers’ liability claim, please call (604) 874-7171 today. Klein Lawyers serves clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia.
What Is the Duty of Care in Occupiers’ Liability Claims?
Section 3 (2) of the Occupiers Liability Act states that an occupier’s duty of care applies to the:
- “(a) condition of the premises;
- “(b) activities on the premises; or
- “(c) conduct of third parties on the premises.”
Each element of the duty of care in an occupiers’ liability claim can be understood as follows:
Condition of the Premises
An occupier has a duty to ensure that the premises are in “reasonably safe” condition. This does not mean that the premises have to be in pristine condition or totally free from hazards for the occupier to avoid liability for an injury suffered by someone on the premises. Rather, occupiers are required to be aware of potential hazards and take reasonable steps to mitigate dangerous conditions such as:
- Objects in walkways
- Exposed cords, wires, etc.
- Poorly maintained steps and stairways
- Missing or unstable handrails
- Unrestrained animals
- Hazardous chemicals and materials
- Unsecured shelving, furniture, and/or overhead signs and other fixtures
If you suffer injury due to a dangerous condition on the premises, you may be able to recover compensation through an occupiers’ liability claim. To do so, you will need to prove that the hazardous condition occurred because an occupier breached the duty of care.
Activities on the Premises
An occupier’s duty of care also encompasses activities on the premises. This includes:
- Cleaning of the premises
- Maintenance of the premises
- Inspection and monitoring of the premises
- Movement of vehicles and equipment on the premises
- Security activities on the premises
- Posting signage on the premises
- Adherence to the BC Building Code
Negligence in any of these activities (such as failure to maintain the premises, building code violations, etc.) can violate the occupier’s duty to ensure that the premises are “reasonably safe” to use. This can cause injury to individuals on the premises. If activities on the premises were conducted in a careless or wrongful manner and you or a loved one suffered injury as a result, you can pursue damages through an occupiers’ liability claim.
Conduct of Third Parties on the Premises
Finally, occupiers are responsible for overseeing the conduct and actions of third parties on the premises to ensure that the premises are “reasonably safe.” The duty of care applies to:
- Invited guests
- Customers and patrons
- Third-party service providers (e.g., cleaning crews, maintenance workers, etc.)
- Independent contractors and subcontractors
According to Section 5 of the Occupiers Liability Act, occupiers cannot be held liable for damages caused by an independent contractor who is engaged by the occupier if:
- “(a) the occupier exercised reasonable care in the selection and supervision of the independent contractor; and
- “(b) it was reasonable that the work that the independent contractor was engaged to do should have been undertaken.”
Liability may still be imposed under other applicable acts on an occupier for the negligence or wrongdoing of an independent contractor. Ultimately, it is in your best interest to speak with a lawyer about your occupiers’ liability claim as soon as possible to identify all of your options for pursuing compensation.
When Does an Occupier Not Have a Duty of Care to a Person on the Premises?
An occupier’s duty of care as it applies to the condition of the premises and the activities and conduct of third parties on the premises is wide-ranging. However, there are situations where an occupier in British Columbia does not have a duty of care to a person on the premises.
Namely, Section 3 (3) of the Occupiers Liability Act states that a person on the premises is not owed a duty of care “in respect of risks willingly accepted by that person as his own risks.” An example of someone willingly accepting risks when entering the premises would be an individual who agrees to sign a liability waiver.
The Occupiers Liability Act also states an occupier does not have a duty of care to someone “who enters premises that the occupier uses primarily for agricultural purposes and who would be a trespasser under the Trespass Act.” Section 2 of the BC Trespass Act defines a trespasser as someone who:
- “(a) enters premises that are enclosed land;
- “(b) enters premises after the person has had notice from an occupier of the premises or an authorized person that the entry is prohibited;
- “(c) engages in activity on or in premises after the person has had notice from an occupier of the premises or an authorized person that the activity is prohibited.
If these conditions are met, an occupier only has the following duties under the Occupiers Liability Act:
- The occupier may not “create a danger with intent to do harm to the person or damage to his property”
- The occupier may not “act with reckless disregard to the safety of the person or the integrity of his property”
Klein Lawyers Can Help
To bring a claim against an occupier of the premises where you suffered injury, you must first establish that the occupier owed you a duty of care. You must also prove that the duty was breached, and that this breach caused you to suffer injury and damages.
Proving each of the elements of an occupiers’ liability claim is challenging. Klein Lawyers can help.
We have extensive experience with complex litigation in British Columbia. Our team can collect evidence and consult expert witnesses to build a strong claim on your behalf, as well as pursue the compensation you deserve if you were injured on someone else’s property.