Riding In a Towed Vehicle Found Negligent by BC Supreme Court

In a case involving a comedy of mishaps leading up to a motor vehicle incident, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing whether it is negligent to ride in a vehicle that is being towed.
In last week’s case (Tabor v. Bridge) the Plaintiffs were involved in a series of mishaps which ultimately led to them having their vehicle towed.  Despite the prohibition of riding in a vehicle that is being towed the Defendant tow truck driver allowed the Plaintiff’s to ride in their own vehicle.   In the course of the trip the tow truck’s dolly system broke causing the towed vehicle to sway back and forth causing injuries to the Plaintiff’s.  The Defendant was found negligent for failing to properly assemble the dolly system.  The Court went on to find that the Plaintiffs were also contributorily negligent for riding in a vehicle that was being towed. In finding them 25% at fault for this decision Mr. Justice Cohen provided the following reasons:
[34]         Section 7.07(6) of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations, B.C. Reg. 26/58 provides that no person shall tow a motor vehicle if there is a person in or on the towed motor vehicle.  There is no doubt that provision was breached in this case.  However, the law provides that mere breach of a statute, standing alone, does not constitute negligence per se: see Van Tent v. Abbotsford (City) 2013 BCCA 236…
[46]         In the case at bar, I find that the plaintiffs appreciated the risk associated with them riding together with their children as passengers in the Ford Explorer while it was being towed.  I also find that they accepted the risk not only because of the assurance they received from the defendant driver as to their safety, but also because they considered this option in all of the circumstances to be more convenient than waiting at the BMW site for a cab to take them home, especially because once they were back at the terminal they could ask the superintendent to arrange a cab to drive them to Surrey at no cost to them.
[47]         In my opinion, regardless of what the plaintiffs were told by the defendant driver about their safety, or for that matter the fact that the police observed the situation and did nothing to stop it, they nevertheless had an obligation to assess the risk and act reasonably.  The fact that the defendant driver told them it was a safe option did not mean that the risk associated with the situation they accepted was unforeseeable.  Thus, I am satisfied that to some degree the plaintiffs were to blame, but I find that the defendant driver was at fault to a much greater degree.
[48]         I find that the defendant driver knew full well that it was against the law to permit persons to ride in a vehicle being towed.  His responsibility in this regard was not removed by the fact that he believed the police would not penalize him in the circumstances.  In addition, he was completely in control of the situation in terms of allowing the plaintiffs and their children to ride in the Ford Explorer while it was being towed.  He could have easily refused them this option or have offered to take two of them at a time back to the terminal in his tow truck.
[49]         When I balance the relative degrees of fault, I find that liability should be apportioned 25% to the plaintiffs and 75% to the defendant driver.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Cohen, Riding in a Towed Vehicle, Section 7.07(6) Motor Vehicle Act Regulations, Tabor v. Bridge, Tow Trucks

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Personal Injury Lawyer

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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