Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP partners Adam Wagman and Brad Moscato recently completed an almost 5 week trial, after which the jury returned a verdict of nearly $3 million, in addition to interest and costs, for HSH client, JP.
JP was injured when she and her husband were walking down King Street in downtown Toronto on a windy day. Without any warning at all, an A-Frame sign, placed on the sidewalk by a condo developer and their contractor, blew into her.
The impact of this sign fractured bones in her face and knocked her backwards onto the sidewalk, smashing the back of her head and knocking her unconscious. As a result, she sustained a mild traumatic brain injury and has only been able to return to part time work. Her Glasgow Coma Scale reading was 14/15 in the ambulance. She continues to suffer from persisting headaches, fatigue and cognitive deficits.
The Defendants had a duty of care to JP and other people using the sidewalk. They knew that these A-Frame signs could blow over in the wind, but did not take reasonable steps to ensure they were placed safely.
The day before the sign hit JP, and many hours before the sign was placed on the sidewalk by the Defendants, the weather forecast by Environment Canada was calling for wind gusts of up to 60 km/hr. That level of wind is at the high end of “near gale wind” on the Beaufort Wind Scale. Not only did the Defendants make the decision to place the sign without checking the weather forecast, but they placed that sign in the downtown core, in the middle of large office towers.
At trial, the defendants admitted that the A-Frame signs can be a hazard for pedestrians when they blow over. And they knew of the phenomenon where wind can funnel in between large buildings to create a stronger wind. Yet, the defendants admitted that the signs are placed 50 weeks per year, regardless of expected storms or wind. In short, they knew that their carelessness in placing those signs on a windy day could cause harm to pedestrians.
The jury found that both the condo developer and the contractor who placed the signs were negligent. The jury apportioned liability between the defendants in the amount of 94 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively.
One can only hope that this case is a lesson to condo and building developers, along with sign companies who place those A-Frame signs, to do a better job ensuring that the signs are placed in a way that will not create a hazard to pedestrians.