'Lucky to be alive,' man sues city after falling off cliff at Albion Falls

Corey Dixon says he is "seeking compensation for the pain and suffering" he endured.

Corey Dixon says he is 'seeking compensation for the pain and suffering' he endured

"My road to recovery isn’t over yet," says Corey Dixon, shown in hospital about three weeks after his 2016 fall. (Chris Seto/CBC)

A Mississauga man who plummeted off a cliff at Albion Falls is suing the city for pain and suffering.

Corey Dixon, 23, was rescued after an icy fall in 2016. Now he's seeking $390,000 to compensate for his "serious and permanent injuries," as well as any court-awarded pecuniary damages. His injuries included debilitating heart problems, a ruptured spleen, 30 broken bones and memory loss. 

"I am seeking compensation for the pain and suffering I endured, and compensation that will help pay for the medical care that I need to get back to my pre-accident capacity," Dixon said in a statement.

"I know how lucky I am to be alive, and I've worked tremendously hard to be able to walk again. But my road to recovery isn't over yet. Lots of hard work and dedication remains until I can fully get back to my pre-accident capacity."

Hamilton's waterfalls are popular attractions, but 2016 saw the highest number of rope rescues in a decade. (Sheryl Nadler)

The lawsuit names the city, which is responsible for maintaining the staircase where Dixon fell, says the statement of claim. 

It also names Hamilton Conservation Authority, the Hamilton Conservation Foundation, the Bruce Trail Conservancy, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Niagara Escarpment Commission and another unnamed company "known to one or more of the defendants … and is not known to the plaintiff."

Robert Durante and Ben Irantalab of the Barrie firm Oatley Vigmond filed the statement of claim this week. City spokesperson John Hertel says the city hasn't filed a statement of defence. 

On Feb. 27, 2016, Dixon was visiting Albion Falls with some friends just after midnight. They parked in the open lot and headed to the staircase. The stairs were built by the city, the lawsuit says, and were not fenced or well lit.

Dixon headed down the steps, which were covered with snow and ice. There were handrails, but they didn't extend the length of the steps, creating "a hidden, concealed and unusual danger in the form of a 'trap' that is inherently dangerous," the statement alleges.

When Dixon got to the bottom, the suit says, he felt unsafe and turned to go back up the steps. That's when he slipped.

At first, Dixon slid about six metres to the end of a path, then off the cliff to fall another nine metres. 

"Corey was lying helpless on the ground for over an hour and a half, causing him to suffer from hypothermia," the statement said. Eventually, he was rescued by firefighters and treated by paramedics.

Dixon said in 2016 that he broke his back and other bones, shattered his arm, and suffered a concussion and a brain bleed.

Corey Dixon pets a therapy dog at Hamilton General Hospital after his fall in 2016. (Corey Dixon)

He held a public event in October 2016 thanking emergency responders. He was also vocal about the need for fencing around the site.

At first, the city said no fence was needed at the site, but installed more fencing last year and started fining out-of-bounds visitors for trespassing.

The city has struggled in general with what to do about the growing number of rope rescues at local waterfalls. In 2016, rope rescue calls were at their highest number in a decade, and Albion Falls is among the deadliest spots.

Last year, a Toronto photographer died after slipping and falling at Albion Falls. In July 2016, five months after Dixon's fall, a man in his fifties fell and died in front of his family.

The city installed more fencing around Albion Falls last year, although some peeled back or climbed over the fence. (City of Hamilton)

City efforts at Albion Falls last year included:

  • Installing 215 metres of fencing and more than 30 warning signs.
  • A plan to install new "map signs" identifying the locations of parking lots, main trails and viewing platforms.
  • A reminder that there is no safe access to the bottom of the waterfall, and no swimming.

Tom Jackson, Ward 6 councillor, says he plans to eventually pursue installing a viewing platform. 

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

With files from Kirthana Sasitharan