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Monday Morning Case Bites for June 24, 2019

Last Week’s Court Rulings from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, Court of Appeal and SCC.

Edited by Amanda Kostek & Christie Dewar

Yellowhorn v Bastien, 2019 ABQB 444
Liability for a Motor Vehicle Accident | Negligent Entrustment

This was a trial on the issue of liability only, where the Court found the registered owner of a vehicle was not found vicariously liable, the Plaintiff primarily negligent, and the registered owner’s son 25% liable. The 16 year old Plaintiff was seriously injured in a single vehicle rollover collision. At the time of the accident, she had three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system. The vehicle she was operating was owned by her 25 year old boyfriend’s mother, who did not know the Plaintiff was operating the vehicle. The Plaintiff sued the registered owner of the vehicle and her boyfriend.

The Court considered s. 187(2) of the Traffic Safety Act, which deems the driver of a vehicle to be an employee of the owner, in order to impose vicarious liability. The Court also considered whether the mother had expressly or impliedly consented to the Plaintiff operating the vehicle. The Court determined that the provision did not apply as vicarious liability can only be imposed for injuries caused to a third party, and not for injuries to the negligent Plaintiff herself.

The Plaintiff sued the registered owner of the vehicle and her boyfriend, and alleged “Negligent Entrustment”. The Court accepted the following 5 part test for Negligent Entrustment:

[33]           In Schulz v Leeside Development Ltd (1978) 1978 CanLII 1976 (BC CA), 90 D.L.R.(3d) 98 (BCCA), the British Columbia Court of Appeal provided a five part test for negligent entrustment, as follows:

(a)               the entrustee was incompetent, inexperienced or reckless;
(b)               the entrustor “knew or had reasons to know” of the entrustee’s condition or proclivities;
(c)               there was an entrustment of the chattel;
(d)               the entrustment created an appreciable risk of harm to the plaintiff and a relational duty on the part of the defendant; and
(e)               the harm to the plaintiff was “proximally” or “legally” caused by the negligence of the defendant.

The Court concluded that the registered owner was not liable for negligent entrustment and dismissed the claim against her. However, the son was partially liable for negligent entrustment on the basis that he knew she was intoxicated and inexperienced, the entrustment of the vehicle to the Plaintiff created appreciable harm, he had a relational duty to her and there was at least some relationship between the loss and the Plaintiff’s boyfriend allowing her to drive. As a result, although the Plaintiff was primarily liable for her own injuries, her boyfriend was 25% contributorily negligent:

[43]           Ms. Yellowhorn is primarily responsible for the accident and her resulting injuries. She chose to drive the vehicle when impaired, when she was unlicensed and inexperienced. She lost control of the vehicle which entered the ditch and rolled. No one made her drive the vehicle. At sixteen years of age, she knew better than to drive while intoxicated.

[44]           Mr. Bastien had control of the vehicle, in relation to who, if anyone, could or would drive it. I find he negligently entrusted the vehicle to Ms. Yellowhorn.

[45]           I find that Mr. Bastien is 25% contributorily negligent, and therefore liable to Ms. Yellowhorn for 25% of her damages.