City of Vancouver pays out $7.8 million to those who have sued city

$7.8M for trips and falls

The City of Vancouver paid out $7.8 million over the past five years to people who sued the city for a variety of incidents that resulted in personal injury and property damage, including interactions with police, slips and falls on sidewalks and cycling accidents.

The payouts and type of incidents covering the period between January 2016 and December 2020 were released to Glacier Media in response to a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The most expensive payout year for the city was in 2019 when it spent $2.9 million. In 2016, the payout was $1.6 million, in 2017 it was $1 million and in 2018 it was $1.6 million. The payouts dropped to $546,432 in 2020.

Incidents included:

  • Trip and fall because of sidewalk defect
  • Slip and fall on slippery sidewalk
  • Police arrest, detainment, bite from a police dog
  • Cycling accident
  • Park or boulevard tree falling on citizen or house
  • Sinkholes, depressions in the road
  • Injured while in a civic building
  • Motor vehicle accident because of traffic signs, controls
  • Injury during sidewalk construction
  • Community centre maintenance issues
  • Parks maintenance — slip and fall on pathways, playground
  • Negligent inspection related to building construction

The FOIPPA document did not break down each case or say when or where it happened, or the extent of injury suffered by the person. All settlements were reached out of court after the person filed a civil claim against the city.

The settlements didn’t necessarily occur in the same year as the court action, with the city’s legal and risk departments saying in an email that litigation typically takes several years to complete and payout amounts are not reflective of increased or decreased litigation activity in a particular year.

“In addition, the total amount paid per year can be subject to significant variation based on a few large settlements,” the city said. “In these circumstances, the city is unable to break down amounts paid based on categories of claims, or explain variations between years without creating a real risk that someone could identify the amount paid in a specific settlement.”

The city said the amounts paid in individual cases are protected by settlement privilege and, in some cases, the release of such information may be subject to confidentiality agreements among the various parties to the litigation.

Both the courts and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner have acknowledged that settlement privilege applies, the city said, quoting a judge in a case involving the City of Richmond and the privacy commissioner.

In that case from 2017, the judge said allowing such information to be disclosed would “discourage third parties from engaging in meaningful settlement negotiations with government institutions.”

Asked about the $7.8 million in payouts, the city described the amount as “relatively low in relation to amounts claimed in lawsuits and in respect of personal injury awards in general, which could be in the millions of dollars for a single case.”

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