Case Summary: Goddard v Bayside Property Services Ltd

The British Columbia Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff can establish liability in an occupiers' liability case by circumstantial evidence when he/she cannot remember how he/she slipped and fell.

Goddard v Bayside Property Services Ltd, 2019 BCCA 148, Willcock J.A.

Facts + Issues

The Plaintiff Goddard slipped and fell on a wooden exterior staircase as he left his residence in Burnaby, BC. He did not know how he fell or what caused him to fall; he just knew that he ended up on his back at the bottom of the staircase. Goddard sued the property management company and the owners of the strata plan in which he lived for the physical damages he suffered in his fall.

The trial judge allowed the matter to proceed by summary trial and dismissed Goddard's claim. He held that:

"The plaintiff is required to prove on a balance of probabilities first, what condition or hazard caused his trip and fall; and second, that the condition or hazard existed due to a breach of duty by the defendants. If the plaintiff cannot prove the former, he cannot prove the latter"; "the court is not permitted to speculate to find what condition or hazard caused the plaintiff to fall"; "it is insufficient for the plaintiff to simply depose 'what else could it have been?'"; and that Goddard had not established that the defendants: failed to meet the requisite standard of care; and had caused his fall by breaching the duty of care owed to Goddard. Goddard appealed the trial judge's decision on the following grounds:

The trial judge had erred by holding that a plaintiff must bring direct evidence in order to establish causation. The trial judge erred in misapprehending, ignoring, or misconceiving the evidence. The trial judge erred in concluding the action was suitable for summary trial. HELD: The Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiff's appeal and ordered a new trial based on the trial judge's failure to address evidence relevant to standard of care and causation.

The Court held that a plaintiff does not need to provide direct evidence in order to prove that occupiers of premises caused them to slip and fall:

4 The appellant is correct to say it is not necessary to lead direct evidence of causation. He says a trial judge may reasonably draw an inference of causation by considering all of the evidence and the absence of evidence, assessed logically, and in light of human experience and common sense (Citing R. v. Villaroman, 2016 SCC 33).

The Court held that "[it] might be...

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