Feb 17, 2021

Torts/Municipal Law: Snow Removal

Marchi v. Nelson (City of), 2020 BCCA 1 (CanLII)
There was a heavy snowfall in Nelson, B.C. overnight on January 4-5, 2015. The City work crews plowed the main commercial street early in the morning of January 5. They did so in a manner that created snowbanks or “windrows” along the curb and onto the sidewalk. The Respondent, Ms. Marchi parked her car in an angled parking spot on the north side of main commercial street. When Ms. Marchi left her car, she encountered the snowbank that had been left by the City’s work crews a day and a half previously. Seeing no other means of getting onto the sidewalk, she tried to cross the snowbank. As she did so, her right foot dropped through the snowbank, and she suffered serious injury to her leg. Ms. Marchi sued the City, alleging it had been negligent in leaving windrows along the road, leaving no space for pedestrians to cross from their car onto the sidewalk. The trial judge dismissed Ms. Marchi’s action in negligence on the grounds the City’s decisions regarding plowing activities were bona fide policy decisions, governed by factors including budgetary social and economic factors, including the availability of manpower and equipment. As such, the trial judge concluded the City’s decisions were immune from liability. The trial judge also concluded, in any event, Ms. Marchi understood and accepted the risk of walking into the snowbank, with inappropriate footwear, and failed to test the snow to determine whether it could bear her weight. The C.A. allowed the appeal, on the grounds the trial judge had made significant errors of fact and law, which had coloured his finding the City’s snow clearing activities were immune from liability. The court allowed the appeal, set aside the order dismissing the Ms. Marchi’s action, and ordered a new trial.