Assault Victim Sues City For Not Providing Adequate Security

We wrote about an assault victim looking to place liability on the owners of a store in last week’s blog. In that situation, the victim was not successful in seeking to place liability on the store. However in this week’s blog, another victim of an assault sought to assign liability to the City of Calgary. The decision was issued by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

The assault

The assault took place on a light rail C-Train system owned and operated by the City of Calgary (“the City”). One of the stations on the rail system is accessed by a pedestrian overpass. In the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2007, the victim was escorting a friend across the overpass to the station. They ran into a small group of people, one of whom used to date the victim’s friend. The former boyfriend launched an unprovoked attack on the victim, with one other person joining in.

The assault was vicious. The attack continued for close to 20 minutes, with a “melee of kicking” accounting for 15-minutes of the assault. As a result of the attack, the victim suffered a severe concussion, multiple fractures to his face and teeth, and lacerations and contusions.


Two young offenders were convicted of criminal charges stemming from the assault. The victim did not pursue an action against them, but did sue the City for damages.

The City’s C-Train system had 337 surveillance cameras throughout the system, with 25 near the station in question. Part of the assault was caught on camera, though much of it occurred out of sight, since the cameras focus mostly on parts of the stations where the trains run. On the night in question, the 337 cameras were displayed on 42 screens, which were monitored by 2 employees. The cameras that caught the assault were shown on two of the screens.

The victim claimed the train station was not safe due to inadequate lighting, video cameras, and presence of security officers.

The trials

The original trial resulted in the city being found partly liable since it was an “occupier” of the overpass, and the victim was a “visitor” as it pertains to the province’s Occupiers’ Liability Act. The trial judge found the City had not met the duty of care it owed to the victim, writing,

“the City failed to meet the standard of care of a municipality in providing a safe and secure transit environment, and therefore breached the duty of care owed to (the victim). In particular, I find that the Canyon Meadows Plus 15 had deficient video surveillance and lighting on January 1, 2007. The combination of these deficiencies resulted in an inability on the part of video surveillance operators to take notice of the assault and dispatch transit officers or CPS [Calgary Police Service] to the scene of the assault. In addition, the transit system as a whole was understaffed by peace officers on that date…”

The City appealed. The court partially upheld the original decision, finding that the City should have been able to identify an assault within five minutes and call in support or stop an assault within five-to-ten minutes of that. Therefore it ruled the city was only liable for the injuries suffered by the victim after the first ten minutes of the assault.

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