Bill 118 is designed to protect small businesses and snow removal companies from frivolous lawsuits and increasing insurance rates
This week Bill 118, the Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act, was considered and passed by the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.
Bill 118, introduced by Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norman Miller, shortens the notice period within which individuals who have fallen because of snow and ice are required to notify the property owner, tenant or snow removal company of their fall and the potential of a law suit. This change is intended to decrease the number of frivolous slip and fall claims and, in turn, reduce the cost of liability insurance for snow removal contractors.
Right now injured parties have two years to notify of a slip and fall and many people wait until the last few months of that window to notify the businesses involved. This makes it very difficult for the businesses to defend themselves as evidence is often long gone, memories have faded and businesses may not even have the same staff.
Originally the Bill had suggested a 10-day notice period, the same as the notice period for people who fall on a municipally maintained road or sidewalk. However, after consultation the committee unanimously agreed to a 60-day notice period.
The Committee heard from landscaping and snow removal companies of all sizes who have faced up to 500% increases in their liability insurance premiums and some who have left the business because they were refused liability insurance completely.
“Ontario has winter. Snow and ice are facts of life so it is essential that we have strong snow removal businesses and that their services are affordable,” said Miller. “I am pleased that my colleagues on the Committee from all parties agreed this was a problem and were willing to work with me to strike a balance between the needs of the snow removal operators and the rights of people who are legitimately injured due to a slip and fall on snow and ice.”
Miller introduced this bill 18 months ago after hearing from the owner of a local snow removal company about the challenges he had finding insurance. Upon hearing this Miller asked around and discovered this was a common problem and after the Bill was introduced heard from snow removal businesses all around the province who were facing the same issue.
There are two final steps before this Bill will become law. It needs to be called for Third Reading debate in the Ontario Legislature and then given Royal Assent by the Lieutenant Governor. Miller is hopeful that will happen this fall.