Sunken Sprinkler Head Can’t Trip Up Municipal Government Act Protections – Trials & Appeals & Compensation

29 June 2022

CLC (Canadian Litigation Counsel)

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In 2019 and 2020, our municipal litigation team successfully defended the City of Lethbridge against an Occupiers’ Liability Act claim – and a subsequent appeal – by relying on provisions within the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

In Ellis v City of Lethbridge, 2019 ABPC 276, the City was south after the plaintiff tripped over a sunken sprinkler head and injured her ankle in the beer garden at a 2017 dragon boat festival. The festival was held at a city park that contained up to an estimated 2,000 sprinkler heads. These sprinklers are designed to allow for some movement into the ground for safety.

Although the presence of the sunken sprinkler head in the beer garden caused the trial judge to find that the city had breached the Occupiers’ Liability Act, the municipality was found not liable under s. 530 of the MGA. The fact that the City employed a system of inspection and maintenance motivated by budgetary concerns and policy decisions qualified it for protection under that section.

The plaintiff filed an appeal (Ellis v City of Lethbridge, 2020 ABQB 783), but it was dismissed as the Court found the trial made no reversible error.

The takeaways from this case are:

  • see 530 of the MGA will shield municipalities from most, but not all, liability under the Occupiers’ Liability Act; other
  • p. 530 can provide municipalities with occupiers’ liability immunity if the liability relates to an implemented system of inspection and maintenance.

A complete breakdown of Ellis v City of Lethbridge can be read here.


Originally published May 4, 2022

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