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Snow removal fight costs city about $300,000

The City of Toronto’s legal battle to avoid removing ice and snow from busy laneways has so far cost taxpayers at least $300,000, a lawyer in the case estimates.

The City of Toronto’s legal battle to avoid removing ice and snow from busy laneways has so far cost taxpayers at least $300,000, a lawyer in the case estimates.

Alan Preyra calculated the costs after the city lost its appeal of a ruling that found it liable for his client’s fall 10 years ago.

“This case could have been settled for $10,000 or $12,000 years ago. It’s now costing taxpayers at least $300,000. You know how many laneways they could have cleaned for $300,000?” Preyra said in an interview.

In a decision last Friday, the Divisional Court upheld a ruling that called the city “grossly negligent” for not clearing a laneway adjacent to the Greenwood subway exit on the Bloor-Danforth line. The laneway was regularly used by local residents, subway passengers and students, and for deliveries to the back entrance of stores.

The city was ordered to pay $33,948 to Vier Guy — a now 43-year-old nurse — who slipped on ice and fractured her wrist.

Three Divisional Court justices agreed with a December 2008 ruling that “the laneway should receive the same standard of maintenance as a sidewalk.”

Provincial law requires municipalities to maintain all sidewalks. They can pass bylaws like Toronto’s requiring homeowners to clean snow from adjacent sidewalks. But courts have ruled that if someone slips and falls, municipalities are liable — not homeowners.

Between 2003 and 2008, lawsuits springing from slip-and-fall incidents on icy city sidewalks are estimated to cost the city more than $30 million after all the bills are paid.

The city released the figures after the Toronto Star filed a freedom of information request in January 2009.

Toronto spends $12 million a year cleaning and salting three-quarters of the city’s 8,000 kilometres of sidewalks. It calculates that extending sidewalk snow removal to all neighbourhoods would cost another $7 million to $8 million a year.

The city can appeal the laneway ruling, but Preyra said it would first have to ask for the appeal court’s permission. Further appeals, he added, would only drive up the costs to taxpayers.

 
 
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