Montreal and CUPE sued for slip and fall

The Quebec Superior Court has ordered the CUPE local and City of Montreal to pay $2 million in a slip and fall class action lawsuit.

Montreal had a severe ice storm in December 2004. At the same time, Local 301 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) had an illegal walkout that lasted one week. At this time the roads and sidewalks were not treated with sand or salt. The union did not follow the back to work order issued by the Essential Services Council.

Due to the hazardous conditions there were hundreds of people who slipped on the icy sidewalks and fell. Some suffered severe injuries. This resulted in 70 residents of Montreal joining a class action suit against the union.

The lead plaintiff in the suit was Grace Biondi. Biondi fell while going to a doctor's appointment. As a result of the fall she hit her face on the ice. She suffered severe headaches for some months after the incident which led to time lost at work.

Other claims had injuries to the knee or wrist that required surgeries. One claimant lost her job because of recurring surgeries due to her injury caused her to be away from her job beyond a reasonable time.

Justice Danielle Grenier found in favor of the claimants and ordered the union to pay $2 million in damages to the victims. The City of Montreal has to pay 50% of this award because of their implementing a system that would not be well received by the union at a time when weather is known to be bad and staffing to be low.

The City of Montreal and CUPE will appeal. Defense concerns are that the consideration is not made for other factors such as improper footwear or physical impairment of a claimant.

So the lesson appears to be that you need to plan ahead especially about a decision that could affect innocent bystanders. Municipal officials need to take note of this for potential future claims. The risk management procedures used can and will affect insurance rates.