In Beardwood v. The City of Hamilton, 2022 ONSC 4030, the plaintiff was involved in a single vehicle motorcycle accident at an intersection in Hamilton, Ontario.
The plaintiff was traveling at a low speed and encountered a bump or surface discontinuity on the roadway formed by a longitudinal asphalt lip. His front wheel went up in the air and he fell off of his motorcycle. The plaintiff and his family members sued the City of Hamilton.
Section 44 of the Municipal Act, 2001 requires a municipality to keep a highway in a reasonable state of repair. However, a municipality is not liable for failing to keep a highway in a reasonable state of repair if it did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to have known about the state of repair of the highway; it took reasonable steps to prevent the default from arising; or it met the statutory minimum maintenance standards.
Justice Krawchenko held that the highway was not in a reasonable state of repair. The existence of the discontinuity created a risk of harm to an ordinary reasonable driver. Further, Justice Krawchenko held that the non-repair caused the accident.
However, Justice Krawchenko stated that the City of Hamilton had a viable statutory defence because the height of the discontinuity was within the threshold in the Minimum Maintenance Standards. As a result, the City of Hamilton was found to be not liable for the accident, and the action was dismissed.
Had liability been found on the City of Hamilton, Justice Krawchenko would have assessed the plaintiff’s contributory negligence at 50% because he did not pay sufficient attention to the roadway and because he had an opportunity to adjust his approach prior to encountering the bump in the road.
This decision shows that, in motor vehicle accident claims against a municipality, even if the poor condition of the highway caused the accident, the municipality may not be liable if it complied with the Minimum Maintenance Standards.