When Is A Laneway A Sidewalk, But A Sidewalk Not A Laneway?

"Sunken and Cracked Sidewalk" after ...

You’ve probably heard the imponderable: “Why do people drive on the parkway, but park on the driveway?”

In Guy v. Toronto (City), 2011 ONCA 689, the Court of Appeal for Ontario attempts to answer a similar vexing question: “When is a laneway a sidewalk, but a sidewalk not a laneway?”

[3]              Section 284 (1) of the Municipal Act requires that the municipality must “keep [a highway] in a state of repair that is reasonable in light of all the circumstances including the character and location of the highway.”  We do not accept Mr. Williams’ able submission that the trial judge judicially declared the laneway to be a sidewalk.  Instead, he found that the laneway – designated as a commercial roadway – was used both as a vehiclar roadway and a pedestrian passageway and the city knew that many pedestrians were using it on a regular basis in that fashion.  It was open for him to take this approach on the record.  The trial judge therefore declined to apply the seven-day notice requirement that applies to sidewalks, but when it came to determining the standard of care, decided to apply the higher standard of gross negligence that applies in sidewalk cases.  This favoured the city and we see no error in these circumstances in his doing so.

[4]              The trial judge found on the evidence that the city was grossly negligent.  We need not decide whether the standard of gross negligence was called for here.  As noted, it favoured the city, and in the particular circumstances of this case, we see no basis for interfering with his conclusion.

[5]              The Divisional Court affirmed the trial judge’s decision.  Again, we see no error.

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