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Suing the city with late notice could cost dearly

The case of a woman ordered to pay the City of Toronto more than $9,000 in legal fees serves as a cautionary tale that when a person intends to sue the city, they must give notice early — very early.
Robin Seif, who was suing the City for $850,000 after falling on a sidewalk in 2011, had her lawsuit thrown out last week because she failed to notify the City of her intent to sue within 10 days of the incident, a stipulation in the City of Toronto Act, and that exists in other Ontario communities.

Although Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan said in his May 13 ruling that he was compelled by legislation to rule in the city’s favour, he still took the opportunity to call the 10-day notice period “very unfair.”

  • He also lashed out at the City for requiring far too much detail from people trying to describe where their accidents took place, after the City argued it had difficulty finding the exact location of Seif’s fall.
  • “The level of detail that the City seems to require from a passerby injured on its property is far beyond anything that the average person would ever expect,” he wrote. “Indeed, it is beyond what the average lawyer or, dare I say, Superior Court judge, would expect.”
  • Most people would likely be unfamiliar with the 10-day notice period as they recover from their accidents, say personal injury lawyers, some of whom have said the provincial government should extend it.
  • Morgan said Seif, who claimed she tripped on a “significant lip” on a sidewalk at Spadina Rd. and Lonsdale Rd. on Aug. 19, 2011, had no valid reason to justify taking four months before sending her notice to the city clerk, which was received on Dec. 23, 2011.
  • Seif declined to comment through her lawyer, James Tausendfreund, who said she is considering an appeal of Morgan’s decision.
  • The Act allows courts to accept reasonable excuses for a delay in sending the notice, and the Ontario Court of Appeal has said that the phrase “reasonable excuse” should be given a “broad and liberal” interpretation.
  • “It’s hard for anyone injured to think about lawyers and lawsuits within that (10-day) period of time,” said Charles Gluckstein, president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association. “I guess the message back to the government is: Can they expand it even further? Can they make it a month? Something more flexible?”
Sources / More info: Woman’s delay in suing the city after a fall costs her $9,000 in legal fees | Toronto Star


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