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City of Calgary liable for assault victim’s injuries because security was inadequate

McAllister v. Calgary (City), 2019 ABCA 214

The City of Calgary owns and operates a light rail transit service, commonly referred to as the “C-Train”.  In the early hours of the morning on January 1, 2007, Kyle McAllister and a female friend were walking on a pedestrian overpass that connects a parkade to the train station.  Suddenly, and without provocation, a group of teenagers brutally attacked Mr. McAllister.  The teens knocked Mr. McAllister down and beat on him for approximately 20 minutes before leaving.  Mr. McAllister suffered a severe concussion, multiple fractures to his face and teeth, many lacerations and contusions.

Mr. McAllister brought an action against the City of Calgary for damages.  Mr. McAllister alleged the train station was unsafe due to insufficient lighting, video surveillance and peace officers.  The City of Calgary defended the claim.

At trial, the Court heard evidence that the train station in question had 25 video surveillance cameras, which fed to display monitors being watched by two employees.  The train station had some overhead lighting, but there was little specific evidence.  The City had 46 Protective Services Officers working the entire C-Train system, but because of an odd scheduling system only two officers were on duty at the time of the assault (New Years’ Eve).   Although the assault was captured on the video surveillance, and lasted for 20 minutes, City employees did not notice the assault at the time.

Justice Kubik found the lighting, video surveillance, and staffing was inadequate.  Justice Kubik found that a proper security system at the train station would have resulted in the assault being stopped at an earlier stage and Mr. McAllister’s injuries being less severe.  Justice Kubik ruled the City was liable.

The City appealed.  The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part.  The Court of Appeal stated the City should have had in place a system creating a reasonable likelihood of detecting the assault within five minutes and responding to it within another five to ten minutes.  The Court of appeal ruled the City was liable only for the injuries Mr. McAllister suffered after the first 10 minutes of the assault.

Readers should note that Alberta is one of several provinces with an Occupiers’ Liability Act.  The same scenario might be adjudicated differently in provinces that are not governed by Occupiers’ Liability legislation, such as New Brunswick.

You can read McAllister v. Calgary (City), 2019 ABCA 214 in its entirety here.

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