Written By: William Keele and Keanin Parish, Student-at-Law
The recent surge of violence aboard Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) public transportation vehicles has sparked concerns among riders about their safety while commuting. The Toronto Police Service has arrested a suspect in one of the incidents, but the increased frequency of violent crimes on public transit has led to calls for action from the TTC and local government.
In response to these concerns, the Toronto Police have increased their presence on streetcars, subways, and buses through “police enhancement” patrols consisting of off-duty police officers working paid overtime shifts. The TTC has also deployed 80 additional staff to enhance system cleanliness and conduct health and safety audits.
However, some critics argue that these measures are merely Band-Aid solutions to deeper social issues and will not effectively address the root causes of violence on public transit. Meanwhile, proponents of the changes hope that heightened security will provide some level of protection for riders.
As for legal action, you may be wondering whether a victim of an attack on the TTC could advance a negligence lawsuit against the TTC?
The TTC as a ‘common carrier’ owes its passengers a duty to use all due, proper and reasonable care in carrying them in safety. Despite this duty, the TTC will not be held liable merely because the attack happened on TTC property.
In Clarke v Toronto Transit Commission, 2013 ONSC 2287, the plaintiff was injured in an altercation with another passenger while riding a TTC bus. The Judge decided that: “it has long been the law in Canada that common carrier like TTC are not insurers of passengers’ safety. The duty of carriers is to use all due, proper and reasonable care.”
While there was insufficient evidence in Clarke v Toronto to establish that the TTC operator acted negligently, there is a possibility that future attacks aboard the TTC may give rise to a claim of negligence if there is evidence that the operator was aware of the potential threat posed by a passenger, failed to respond to escalating behaviour, or otherwise failed to respond with reasonable care.
But violence and criminal acts are not the only threats to commuter safety on the TTC. Public transit accidents, such as the infamous subway crash in 1995 that left three dead and dozens injured, or recent crashes involving TTC buses, can result in serious and permanent injury.
At McLeish Orlando, the public transit lawyers have experience representing victims of serious public transit accidents, and have access to rehabilitation professionals who can assist with recovery from injuries. It’s important to note that there is a two-year time limit to commence a legal proceeding from the day of discovery of the claim, so it is crucial to act fast and seek legal consultation as soon as possible.