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Judge finds B.C. couple not liable after man slips, injures back on cleared sidewalk

The couple had cleared and salted the sidewalk in front of their home

A Burnaby couple is not liable for the injuries a man suffered when he fell on an icy sidewalk in front of their house, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.

According to court documents released Friday, Darwin Der was walking on the sloped sidewalk in front of the Burnaby home of Ang Zhao and Quianqiu Huang on Dec. 21, 2017.

He claimed the sidewalk appeared to have been cleared, but he slipped, fell backwards and hit his head. The then-75-year-old suffered a spinal injury and required surgery to fuse several vertebrae together.

Der’s claim sought damages from the City of Burnaby and blamed Zhao and Huang for not properly clearing the sidewalk.

The couple purchased the home in September 2017 and happened to move in on the same day as the fall.

Zhao claimed he had salted the sidewalk between Nov. 4 and Dec. 21, but did not recall on which days.

He said he went to the house after a heavy snowfall on Dec. 19 to clear the ice and snow, as per city bylaws, and used a shovel and spade.

Huang claimed she salted the sidewalk at about 8 a.m. on on Dec. 21 because it was moving day and the couple was worried the movers might fall.

When Zhao went to the home later that day, he claimed he saw salt on the sidewalk and believed it to be otherwise clean.

In her Nov. 22 judgment, Justice Heather MacNaughton found Der’s arguments to be “logically flawed.” She said he was essentially stating that homeowners did not have a duty of care to clear the sidewalk, but that they were liable if they cleared the sidewalk poorly.

“It is circular reasoning,” MacNaughton said.

She said Der failed to explain why Zhao and Huang should have been worried that their cleaning the sidewalk could have made it more, not less dangerous, as a result of the weather, the sidewalk structure or slope, and that ice could have formed after the fact.

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@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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