News & Information

Cottage (any Property) Owners and Renters Beware

Global Administrator

Legal decisions never cease to amaze and seem to constantly place the responsibility of a careless or negligent individual upon the shoulders of an "easy target" such as an unsuspecting property owner.

Case in point. A recent decision by a Canadian court holding a cottage owner liable for injuries sustained by a young man who dived off their cottage dock into water which was too shallow. Regretfully, he suffered very serious injuries leaving him a tetraplegic. A very tragic situation indeed, but was it the fault of the cottage owner?

The "negligence" incurred by the cottage owners included building a large dock fit with a swim ladder. Also, there was a large boat moored at the dock. Finally, there were two women crouching in the water. All of these factors "suggested" the water was deeper than it was. There was no sign on the dock warning of the water depth and no barrier on the end of the dock.

The defendant-injured party was a young man in his early 20's who had been consuming alcohol that night. Upon arriving at the cottage he decided to run down the dock and dove head first into water, which was only two-and-one-half feet deep sustaining these serious injuries.

The courts decision was that the cottage owners did not meet the standard of care because there was no barriererected on the dock and no sign warning of the shallow water. Not what a reasonable and prudent cottage owner would do (??!!).

Suffice it to say that cottage owners (and even renters) will need to re-evaluate the precautions to be taken to avoid ANY foreseeable risk of harm of the kind that were present in this situation.

Aside from the obvious hazards presented by water, boats, docks, swim platforms, and the like, these precautions extend to other areas such as railings around decks and stairs, condition of steps (loose rocks), serving of alcohol, trampolines, outdoor games, and just about any other human endeavour. Be forwarned that the courts will go to great lengths to satisfy the damages of injured parties.

- 2009 New Brunswick Court of Appeal decision in Brown et al. v Keenan et al.


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