Spatial Data Quality: The Duty to Warn Users of Risks Associated with Using Spatial Data


  • Jennifer A. Chandler Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa.
  • Katherine Levitt LLB Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa.



This article discusses whether and when a private provider of spatial data may be liable to pay for damages resulting from physical injury that occurs due to reliance on erroneous spatial data. The existing case law supports the view that some courts will approach harm due to errors in spatial datasets that give rise to physical harm using principles applicable to defective products, while others regard these errors as negligent misrepresentation. This article analyzes the duty to warn and spatial data in two parts. First, it provides an overview of the general problem of spatial data quality and its growing importance in light of internet dissemination to the public. Second, it sketches out the basic rules in the three main subdivisions of Canadian product liability law (manufacturing defects, design defects, and failures to warn of risks associated with products) and applies them to the context of broadly disseminated spatial data.