Tondat v Hudson’s Bay Company, 2017 ONSC 3226 (CanLII) – Human Factors Case Brief

Tondat v Hudson’s Bay Company, 2017 ONSC 3226 (CanLII)

Date: 2017-05-26


The Plaintiff, Ms. Sandra Tondat brought a claim for damages against Hudson’s Bay Co. (Defendant) from a slip and fall that occurred on December 2, 2012 at approximately 1 PM. It had been raining heavily early that morning but was drizzling at the time of the fall.

Ms. Tondat entered the Bay store while carrying a small vacuum cleaner that she was returning. A patron of the store held the door open for her and she stepped into the store and onto a black mat that was on a tiled floor. The floor mat covered only part of the tiled floor. As she walked from the mat to the tiled floor, Ms. Tondat slipped and fell onto her right knee breaking her kneecap. Only then did Ms. Tondat notice water on the floor and her pants became soaked as she sat on the mat after the fall.

The firm Quinterra, contracted to perform cleaning services, had no knowledge of the condition of the floor, no maintenance sheets, and no inspections forms for the store. Quinterra did not know what cleaning, if any, had been done in the area of the slip and fall.

Judgment was found in favour of the plaintiff, Ms. Tondat.

Plaintiff’s Human Factors Position

The Plaintiff did not call upon a human factors expert and had no human factors position.

The plaintiff’s position was that the Bay and Quinterra did not maintain a duty of care as there were no procedures in place to protect patrons who entered the store in adverse weather, nor were there any warning signs about the wet floor.

Defence’s Human Factors Position

Dr. Adam Campbell provided human factors testimony. Dr. Campbell tested the floor on April 16, 2014 using a BOT-3000E Digital Tribometer. He found that the friction of the floor exceeded the acceptable standard when the floor was dry or wet. Dr. Campbell opined that dry or wet, the floor posed no risk of slipping, the floor was safe, and that no warning signs were needed when wet.

Judge’s Rationale

The judge stated that water increases the likelihood of a slip and fall. Therefore, in the absence of other factors (heel catching on the mat, pre-existing medical condition, or spontaneous collapse of her right knee) the presence of water was the significant factor contributing to the slip and fall.

The judge concluded that there were simply too many variables to conclude the floor was inherently safe and there could have been other factors that were not accounted for in Dr. Campbell’s friction tests. The judge felt that these other factors (the force Ms. Tondat applied to the floor; presence or absence of any grease, oil or other cleaning substances on the floor; effect of the package Ms. Tondat was carrying; the condition of the sole of her shoe) limited the weight that could be placed on Dr. Campbell’s evidence.