When a person owns or occupies a property, that person is responsible for any injuries or damage arising on or in relation to that property. This is called “occupier’s liability”. Whether someone is injured in a slip and fall on an icy doorstep and breaks their leg, or a person falls from a poorly constructed backyard deck and suffers catastrophic injuries as a result, the owner or occupier of the property where the incident occured may be found liable for damages. Property issues can go even farther when it comes to neighbourhood disputes.
This blog will consider a recent case from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in which a property dispute between neighbours uncovered one party’s negligence, resulting in a substantial damages award.
Neighbours Dispute Regarding Water Pooling on Property
An example of a unique claim concerning two homeowners is provided by Warren v Gluppe, a case involving a very costly dispute between two neighbours, Warren (the “plaintiff”) and Gluppe (the “defendant”). The plaintiff had lived in the same house in Prince Edward County since 2005. In the Spring of 2016, Warren noted water pooling along the property line between his house and that of his neighbour, the defendant. Upon speaking with the defendant and notifying him of the situation, it was determined that the water was coming from the defendant’s sump pump line and draining into an area close to the plaintiff’s house. This leak was also accompanied by a foul odour, which the plaintiff surmised could be attributable to the defendant’s septic system and/or leaching bed. With this in mind, the plaintiff immediately retrieved two water samples from the flooded area and submitted them to the provincial Health Department, which identified the presence of E. coli and Coliforms in the samples.
Although the plaintiff and the defendant engaged in multiple discussions with respect to the issue throughout the summer and fall of 2016, no mutually acceptable solution could be achieved. While the defendant acknowledged the flooding and the fact that an issue with his residence caused it, he undertook no action to remediate the issue. Further, he advised the plaintiff that he did not have property insurance and was not in a position to be able to afford to fix the problem.
Eventually, the involvement of the township was required, and the Frontenac County Planning Department intervened and ordered the defendant to dig a trench to redirect the sump pump line to the opposite side of the defendant’s driveway, which in turn would redirect the water to the main road where municipal culverts could collect it. While the defendant made the changes ordered by the Planning Department, the attempt failed to resolve the ongoing issue. It was later discovered that this failure was attributable to the fact that the water redirected back where it came from, instead of flowing toward the culverts on the street, through a pipe on the defendant’s property that had not been properly removed during the remediation efforts. As a result, the water continued to pool in 2023 in the same place it had approximately seven years prior.
Following the defendant’s failed attempt to remediate the situation, the water continued to pool in the same place it had been since it was discovered on the property line between the plaintiff and the defendant’s respective homes. By the end of 2016, the plaintiff contended that “the pooling water undermined the foundation of his home, resulting in its structural collapse to the point where it was no longer safe for him to live there.” As such, he commenced a claim in December 2016 alleging nuisance and negligence, the trial of which was before the Court in 2023.
Court Finds the Defendant Liable in Nuisance and Negligence
After examining all of the evidence, the Court was satisfied that the defendant was aware of the flood emanating from his property but that he had failed to adequately address the issue of water flowing from his sump pump or properly maintain his septic system. It was also determined that the defendant neglected to repair his eavestroughs to minimize the amount of water saturation occurring along the property line. The collective result of the defendant’s failures caused water to pool along the northeastern wall of the plaintiff’s house, thus saturating the area along the property line and contaminating the area with E. coli and Coliforms.
The Court was further satisfied that, by December 2016, the pooling water had compromised the foundation of the plaintiff’s home, that it was the cause of the collapse of the plaintiff’s home, and that the defendant’s actions (or lack of action in this case) had interfered with the plaintiff’s ability to safely reside in his home or sell the property. Given the amount of money it would cost for the plaintiff to rebuild his home and its contents, as well as the costs he had incurred as a result of the damage caused to his original home, including accommodation at another place of residence since he had been forced to vacate the premises of his home, the Court awarded the plaintiff damages of $505,354.53.
Contact Campbell Litigation Lawyers for Trusted Legal Advice on Property Disputes and Occupier’s Liability Claims
Whether you have sustained a personal injury due to unsafe propety conditions, or are engaged in an ongoing dispute with one of your neighbours, the team of skilled litiigation lawyers at Campbell Litigation are here to help. Our team will help guide you through the complex legal process to ensure your rights are asserted and preserved. We will assess your circumstances and provide you with practical and strategic legal advice to help you move forward. Contact Campbell Litigation online or by telephone at 519-886-1204 to schedule a confidential initial consultation.