Passenger 35% To Blame For Riding With Impaired Driver

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing contributory negligence for a passenger who rides with an impaired motorist involved in a collision.
In today’s case (Telford v. Hogan) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle operated by the Defendant.  Both were drinking throughout the day.  As the vehicle was travelling at excessive speed on a highway the driver lost control resulting in a serious single vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff apparently interfered somehow with the steering wheel moments before the loss of control and the Court found the driver 75% at fault with the passenger shouldering 25% of the blame for this interference.  In addition to this the Court apportioned the Plaintiff’s contributory negligence at 35% for riding with an impaired motorist.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Fitzpatrick provided the following reasons:

[103]     Despite the efforts of Ms. Telford’s counsel to distinguish the above cases, all of them bear some resemblance to this case in that the passenger and the driver embarked on a drinking exercise or “hazardous enterprise” where both knew or should have known that the intoxication of the driver was inevitable. I would repeat that Ms. Telford was well aware that Ms. Hogan was drinking over the course of the day and she had particular knowledge of the quantity of what Ms. Hogan consumed as the majority of it came from her own drink container. Although she may not have been aware of exactly what Ms. Hogan consumed from Ms. Ettinger’s cup, she would also have been aware that Ms. Ettinger’s beverage was alcoholic and that Ms. Hogan was sharing that too.

[104]     It does not follow that since Ms. Hogan was not exhibiting overt signs of impairment, one need not consider Ms. Telford’s lack of judgment in both offering her drink to Ms. Hogan and then getting in the vehicle being driven by Ms. Hogan for the trip home. To the extent that later in the day, Ms. Telford drank alcohol to the point of being severely intoxicated herself confirms that she failed to take reasonable steps to ensure her ongoing ability to assess her safety over the course of the trip home.

[105]     The cases cited by ICBC support the suggested range of apportionment of 30-35% for such a passenger who voluntarily rides with a drunk driver. The higher end of this range is amply supported, particularly by the fact that Ms. Telford herself provided most of the alcohol consumed by Ms. Hogan that day.

[106]     I assess Ms. Telford’s contributory negligence to be 35%.

bc injury law, contributory negligence, impaired driving, Madam Justice Fitzpatrick, passenger grabbing steering wheel, Telford v. Hogan

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ERIK
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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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