Slippery Tiles Result in Liability Finding Against Hotel

Slippery Tiles Result in Liability Finding Against Hotel

In DRUET V. SANDMAN HOTELS, INNS & SUITES LIMITED, 2011 BCSC 232 (“DRUET”), the Court found a hotel liable for failure to ensure that the Plaintiff was reasonably safe in using the premises, as required by s. 3(1) of the OCCUPIERS LIABILITY ACT. In an indication of how important detailed evidence can be in “slip and fall” cases, the Court placed significant weight on an expert report which measured the acceptability of the coefficient of friction for the hotel’s tile. The Court also found the Plaintiff contributorily negligent due in part to her failure to wipe her feet on the mat at the entrance, resulting in equally apportioned liability.

In DRUET, the Plaintiff slipped and fell after stepping onto a tile surface in the hotel lobby, suffering a serious ankle fracture. While it was raining outside that day, the evidence was inconclusive as to whether the tiles themselves were wet at the time of the incident. However, the fact that the Plaintiff had just been walking in the rain allowed the inference that the soles of her shoes were wet at the time of the fall.

After considering the evidence of a professional engineer relating to the friction coefficient of the tile at issue, the Court found that “the floor itself was a hazard to people wearing shoes with wet soles” (at para. 36). The evidence suggested that a friction coefficient of .35 as measured by a “Mark II Tester” was acceptable, but when the tile was tested with a rubber test block comparable to the Plaintiff’s Asics running shoes a sub-standard result of .24 was produced. When a test was done which simulated running shoes with wet soles, a result of .03 was produced.

While the friction coefficient evidence was central to the finding of causation, it also played a determinative role in the Court’s consideration of liability. After pointing out that “where there is evidence of a PRIMA FACIE breach of the ACT, an occupier, such as Sandman, may rebut the breach of duty by leading evidence that it had put into place a reasonable system of care, inspection and maintenance that was being followed at the time of the Accident” (at para 48.), the Court nonetheless concluded that the hazardous nature of the tile itself was enough to found liability:

[55]        In my view, despite the mat and warning signs, Sandman did not have a reasonable system for monitoring the condition of its floors at the entrance to the Hotel.  The un-contradicted evidence of Airton was that the Lobby floor was unacceptably slippery for a variety of shoe types when wet or walked on with wet shoes.  By placing the signs and mat it is clear that Sandman knew the floor was slippery in such circumstances.  There was no system of regular systematic inspection of the area or mat.

[56]        However, even if Sandman had a regular system of monitoring and inspection, such a system could not guard adequately against a floor surface that was unacceptably slippery when walked upon with wet shoes.  In my opinion Sandman is liable.

Although the hotel had taken certain precautionary measures, the “un-contradicted” scientific data relating to the coefficient of friction of the tile proved to be determinative.

The Court ultimately awarded the Plaintiff $55,000 in non-pecuniary damages, which was then reduced by half along with other amounts awarded for loss of income and special damages according to the equally apportioned liability.

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