No Liability for Fire

Nothing earth-shattering about Goodliff v. Woodcock, but it is the latest case to deal with “accidental fires”.

Usually, it’s the landlord’s insurer suing the tenant (and running into the body of caselaw where implied waivers of subrogation have frequently been found). Here, the situation was a little different. The tenant was uninsured and she sued her landlord for damage done to her contents in a fire that destroyed the landlord’s building.

The fire investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire. As a result, counsel for the landlord relied on s. 76 of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, which prohibits lawsuits “against any person in whose house or building or on whose land any fire accidentally begins”. (This provision formerly appeared in the now-repealed Accidental Fires Act.)

The plaintiff argued that the fire had been caused by the landlord’s negligence (and if she had persuaded the judge of this, then s. 76 would not have afforded a defence). But her evidence related to various problems that she had had with her unit in the past. Nothing pointed to a cause of the fire.

The court reviewed the “accidental fires” caselaw and concluded that s. 76 did apply, such that the action was dismissed.

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