"Reasonable Steps" Crucial To Municipal Immunity From Road Disrepair Claims ' Marsten V. The City Of Grande Prairie, 2022 ABPC 236

Published date16 December 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Transport, Rail, Road & Cycling, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution
Law FirmCLC (Canadian Litigation Counsel)
AuthorMs Molly Clark (Brownlee LLP)

Brownlee was successful in defending the City of Grande Prairie against a claim for vehicle damages due to road disrepair, by relying on provisions of Part 13 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Summary

In Marsten v. The City of Grande Prairie, 2022 ABPC 236, the City was sued by the Plaintiff after she drove over a pothole and suffered damages to her vehicle while travelling on a City road. Under the MGA, all municipalities are required to keep their roads in a "reasonable state of repair", keeping in mind the character of the road, and the area in which it is located (1). The City's defence heavily relied on the MGA sections pertaining to a municipality's immunity from liability with respect to road disrepair. Namely, we argued that the City should not be held liable, as they did not have prior knowledge of the area of disrepair the Plaintiff encountered, and had taken reasonable steps to prevent any disrepair from arising.

The Court favoured the City's evidence, and dismissed the Plaintiff's claim for damages. The decision provides useful commentary and analysis regarding a municipality's responsibilities under the MGA with respect to roads, especially in a harsh climate like Alberta.

Background

The Plaintiff was travelling in her vehicle on a major, arterial road in the City in May of 2020. While on her normal route to work, she drove over a pothole, which she claimed caused damages to her vehicle's tire and rim.

The City's Transportation Services sector oversees the inspection and maintenance of the roads which are under the direction and control of the City. The City's system of inspection and maintenance is primarily complaint-based, meaning the City relies on drivers to report areas that require attention and/or repair. Drivers have the opportunity to report areas of disrepair by phone, e-mail, social media, or the City website. Once reported, the City's target response time is 24 hours to assess and/or repair the area. Particularly large or dangerous areas of disrepair are attended to first where possible.

Approximately two months following this incident, the City completed a road rehabilitation and resurfacing project for the arterial road which the Plaintiff was travelling on. This resurfacing had been planned by the City prior to the Plaintiff's claim.

Prior Knowledge of Pothole

Section 532(6) of the MGA dictates that municipalities in Alberta may only be held liable for a road's state of repair if they knew, or ought to have known, about...

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