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City of Nelson updates snow clearing policy after Supreme Court ruling

Nelson city council has updated its policy on how it deals with snowplowing and ice control as a legal battle continues in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

In October, the highest court in the land ordered a fresh trial before a lower court between the City of Nelson and Taryn Marchi, who was seeking $1 million in damages for negligence.

Marchi was badly injured after stepping into a snowbank between the angled parking and the sidewalk on Baker Street in 2015. A windrow had been created by the city as part of snow clearing operations. The case is now being handled by the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia and not by the municipality.

During Friday’s special council meeting on the budget, public works director Colin Innes said the high court did not agree the city had a “core policy decision” backed by city council, which is part of the reason the policy is being updated.

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“I think really what the big piece of this is…within our existing policy there was no discussion about windrows and about stockpiling of snow or any of these things and so they (Supreme Court of Canada) were saying that’s not in there so you can’t be relying on what you have as a core policy decision,” Innes said.

Municipalities are typically immune from liability under a core policy decision of city council.

One city staffer told council the municipality was still in “a really good position” as far as its legal case.

“We haven’t actually lost yet, we just don’t have the immunity piece. Even if we don’t have immunity, like in this case, the court has found we don’t, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost yet,” the staff member said.

The new policy, which was passed by council, specifically addresses windrows and stockpiling of snow in a snow hazard warning clause. “Stepping onto or into a windrow or other stockpile of snow could result in serious injury or death and should be avoided,” the policy says in part.

Nelson has 67 kilometers of roads it plows and roughly $770,000 was budgeted this year to clear snow from roads, sidewalks and stairs.

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