Following a recent decision from the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the city of Calgary may have to consider improving its security on the city’s C-Train system. The decision follows an assault where the court determined the city did not provide adequate security, leading to a very serious assault that went on for longer than it should have.
A terrible assault
The events leading to the trial occurred early on New Year’s Day, 2007. The plaintiff was walking a friend to the train where the friend was to meet her younger brother. The brother was in the company of two other young men, one of whom used to date the friend. The brother’s friends ended up launching an unprovoked assault on the plaintiff.
The assault resulted in the plaintiff receiving punches to his head over the course of six minutes. After that, he lost consciousness and fell to the ground where he was kicked repeatedly in the head for approximately 15 minutes, with another group of youths joining in the attack. The plaintiff suffered a severe concussion as well as multiple fractures to his face and teeth, lacerations, and contusions.
The security system
At the time of the trial, the city’s C-Train system contained 337 video surveillance cameras. 25 of them were located in the station where the attack occurred. 12 of these were in the parkade and another 13 were directed at the platform, station exists, and the overpass. The feeds from the security cameras were monitored on that evening by two employees who watched 42 display monitors. Two of these monitors were dedicated to the station where the attack occurred, with the feed from different cameras at the station rotating into the feed at three or four-second intervals. In addition, there were 12 officers responsible for patrolling the entire C-Train system.
The plaintiff brought an action against the city, alleging the station was not covered by proper security due to poor lighting, lack of video cameras, and a shortage of patrol officers.
The original trial and the appeal
During the original trial the city was found partly liable. As an occupier of the overpass, and the plaintiff as a visitor, Alberta’s Occupiers’ Liability Act requires the city to provide some duty of care for people using the station and overpass. The trial judge wrote that,
“The City failed to meet the standard of care of a municipality in providing a safe and secure transit environment, and therefore breached the duty of care owed to (the plaintiff). In particular, I find that the (station) had deficient video surveillance and lighting on January 1, 2007. The combination of these deficiencies resulted in an inability on the part of video surveillance operators to take notice of the assault and dispatch transit officers or CPS [Calgary Police Service] to the scene of the assault. In addition, the transit system as a whole was understaffed by peace officers on that date. . . .”
The city appealed, but the courts agreed with most of the trial judge’s decision, writing that the security team should have been able to identify an assault within five-to-ten minutes of it starting. As a result, the city was held liable for the injuries that occurred after the first ten minutes of the assault.
At HMC Lawyers, our Insurance Team takes the time to understand the needs and perspective of commercial occupiers, and endeavours to resolve occupiers’ liability claims through responsive and forward-thinking legal work. Although we are always prepared to take matters to trial, we also look for ways to settle matters through alternative dispute resolution and take every available opportunity to minimize costs for our clients.
If you have questions about your potential liability as an occupier, or if you are facing an occupiers’ liability claim, make an appointment to speak with one of our lawyers. Call 1-800-480-3534 or contact us online.