Who is Responsible If You Are Injured at a Park?

Occupiers' Liability Act

The Ontario law called Occupiers' Liability Act sets out who are responsible in the event you are injured at a certain location.

Section 3 of the Occupiers' Liability Act states that an “occupier of premises owes a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on the premises, and the property brought on the premises by those persons are reasonably safe while on the premises."

“Occupier” is defined under section 1 of the Occupiers' Liability Act as either:

  1. A person who is in physical possession of premises, or
  2. A person who has responsibility for and control over the condition of premises or the activities there carried on, or control over persons allowed to enter the premise.

The case called Campbell v. Bruce (County), a case decided by the Ontario Court of Appeal on May 17, 2016, specifically answers the question on who is responsible if a person is injured at a park.

In the Campbell case, Stephen Campbell fell off his bike while attempting to cross a constructed obstacle at the Bruce Peninsula Mountain Bike Adventure Park on August 7, 2008. As a result of the incident, he fractured his spine and was rendered quadriplegic. At the time of the unfortunate incident, Campbell was a 43-year-old man with extensive mountain bike trail experience. He was wearing a helmet during the incident.

Campbell sued the County of Bruce for his injury. The County opened the Bruce Peninsula Mountain Bike Adventure Park in 2005. The park was not supervised and open to the public with no admission fee.

A seven-day trial with seven witnesses was conducted by a trial judge to determine whether or not the County was liable under section 3 of the Occupiers' Liability Act.

The trial judge ruled that Campbell was not negligent during the accident. The trial judge also concluded that the County was liable for Campbell’s injury for the following four reasons:

  1. Failure to Post Proper Warning Signs

The trial judge reasoned that the County should have placed warning signs about the risk of serious injury and the level and type of expertise needed.

  1. Negligent Promotion of the Park

The trial judge concluded that the park’s promotional materials should have contained more detailed warnings about the skill level needed as well as the risks of injury.

  1. Failure to Adequately Monitor Risks and Injuries at the Park

The trial judge found that the park has no mechanism to collect and assess ambulance calls.

  1. Failure to Provide an “Adequate Progression of Qualifiers”

The trial judge concluded that the mountain bike obstacle called “Free Fall” – the exact location where Campbell was injured was the “next logical progression” after another obstacle called “Pee Wee”.

The County appealed the decision of the trial judge to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The appellate court ruled that the trial judge was correct in holding the County liable for the injury of Campbell as well as finding that the Campbell was not negligent during the incident.