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November 17, 2011

Protect Your Passengers!

Last post, Mike commented on the duty of care owed by drivers to protect their passengers.

This duty is a central issue in BC Supreme Court Case Vedan v. Stevens.

In this case, the driver of a pickup truck, Mr. Stevens, is leaving a campground to run an errand. He agrees to give four children a ride, allowing them to travel in the back of his truck. He warns them that they must behave and stay seated.

A 12-year-old boy is thrown from the back of the truck. He suffers a brain injury.

The Trial Judge says that Mr. Stevens owed a duty of care to the 12-year-old to protect him by not allowing him to ride in the back of his truck. But the Judge also says the boy did not take reasonable care for his own safety. The Judge finds Mr. Stevens 75% at fault and the boy 25% at fault.

The boy’s parents appeal the decision.

The Court of Appeal agrees that an individual “including a 12-year-old child” must take reasonable care for their own safety. But they want to know whether the boy exercised the care to be expected for his age, intelligence, and experience.

The Court says that a driver taking children as passengers must accept responsibility for the safety of those children. But for the boy to be found at fault there must be evidence to establish that he failed to take care for his own safety by riding in the back of the truck. Did he get up himself and fall out? Did he bounce out? Was he pushed out? There is no evidence to show how the boy got up from his seated position, so the Court of Appeal says the driver is 100% at fault.

It’s important to remember that your duty of care as a driver is more important than trying to be friendly and helpful. Safety comes first. Make sure those riding with you are properly buckled in before hitting the road.