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Aug 13, 2010 | Article 

Occupiers Liability - A Recent Case

Lawson v. Costco:  April, 2010

This case serves as a reminder of the necessity for a condominium corporation to take reasonable steps to ensure that persons are safe while on the common elements. A condominium corporation is deemed to be the occupier of the common elements, for the purposes of liability for injury or damages that occur on the common elements.
In this case, the plaintiff was 69 years of age, browsing at Costco  when she slipped on a piece of lettuce that fell out of a container being carried to a product demonstration stand that was promoting caesar salad dressing .   
In determining that Costco was liable to the plaintiff for her slip and fall, the judge stated:
"there was not a program specifically related to the cleanup of items which would result in a customer slipping on the floor other than spills typically from the flower display and other locations.  In my view, the scheduled inspections of the building and floors was inadequate.  In particular, with respect to the aisle in which the plaintiff fell, it would appear that regularly scheduled inspection of the floor was non-existent. This absence of scheduled floor inspections existed notwithstanding that the salad display was in close proximity and it would be anticipated that customers would carry salads into the pharmaceutical area.  Therefore, I conclude that the defendant did not meet the standard of reasonableness required when the occupier knew that the lettuce and other similar items could be transported to this area and dropped in the fashion acknowledged by the defendant."
The judge's explanation of the law can be summarized as follows:
An occupier is required to take all reasonable steps to minimize risk of injury to its patrons. 
Occupiers must tailor their preventative measures to the particular circumstances which could give rise to an unusual danger.  
While a standard of perfection is not required, what is required to meet the standard of reasonableness will depend on the circumstances; what meets the reasonableness standard in one situation may fall short in another. 
Therefore, if a board of directors has not turned its mind to this issue in the past, it could take a look at potential higher-risk-of-injury locations in and around the common elements based on any past occurrences, reports from cleaners or superintendents, or just a common sense look at any troublesome issues.

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