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NEGLIGENCE - Duty and standard of care - Duty of care - Causation - Foreseeability and remoteness

Friday, May 11, 2018 @ 2:47 PM  

Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Appeal by Rankin (Rankin’s Garage & Sales) from the judgement of the Ontario Court of Appeal affirming the decision holding Rankin’s Garage liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident. Two minors, C and plaintiff J, stole a car from Rankin’s commercial garage after drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. The doors of the car were unlocked, and the keys left inside. While C was driving, the car crashed, and J suffered a catastrophic brain injury. The trial judge found Rankin owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and held that the risk of harm was foreseeable. A jury found all parties had been negligent and apportioned 37 percent of liability to Rankin. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision after conducting a full duty of care analysis, following the test laid out in Anns/Cooper. The issue in this appeal was whether Rankin’s Garage owed the plaintiff a duty of care.

HELD: Appeal allowed. It did not automatically flow from evidence of the risk of theft in general that a garage owner should consider the risk of physical injury. Physical injury was only foreseeable when there was something in the facts to suggest that the stolen vehicle might be operated in a dangerous manner. A duty of care could be found if there was some circumstance or evidence which suggested that a person should have reasonably foreseen the risk of injury. For harm to be reasonably foreseeable, a higher threshold than mere possibility was to be met, and physical injury was to be reasonably foreseeable prior to the incident occurring and not with the aid of 20/20 hindsight. Common sense, which could play a useful role in assessing reasonable foreseeability, was tied to the specific circumstances of the case and not to general notions of responsibility to minors. The fact that the plaintiff was a minor did not automatically create an obligation to act for Rankin. While illegal conduct could sever the proximate relationship between the parties or negate a prima facie duty of care, Rankin did not owe such a duty to the plaintiff in the circumstances of this case. Commercial garages did not have a positive duty to guard against the risk of theft by minors.

Rankin (Rankin's Garage & Sales) v. J.J., [2018] S.C.J. No. 19, Supreme Court of Canada, B. McLachlin C.J. and R.S. Abella, M.J. Moldaver, A. Karakatsanis, R. Wagner, C. Gascon, S. Côté, R. Brown and M. Rowe JJ., May 11, 2018. Digest No. TLD-May72018013SCC