BC Court of Appeal Denies Severe Injury Claim Because Teenaged Plaintiff "Ought to Have Known" Vehicle Driven Without Consent
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal denying a Plaintiff access to a pool of money intended to compensate people injured at the hands of uninsured motorists.
In the recent case (Schoenhalz v. ICBC) the Plaintiff, who was 17 at the time, was badly injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a 2007 collision. The Plaintiff suffered spinal fractures, various burns to her body, dental injuries and a pelvic fracture. The driver of the vehicle was found to be negligent and damages of $282,992 were assessed.
The Court found, however, that the driver of the vehicle was not operating it with either the express or implied consent of the owner. Accordingly the lawsuit against the vehicle owner was dismissed. The driver was 15 years of age at the time and did not have a license. The Court concluded that “at the time of the accident (the Plaintiff) knew that (the driver) was age 15 and did not have a driver’s license.”.
ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff and the current lawsuit was commenced. As discussed several years ago, a Plaintiff cannot access section 20 uninsured motorist funds if they “at the time of the accident as a result of which the bodily injury, death or loss of or damage to property was suffered, was an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the person knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner, and, in the case of a leased motor vehicle, the lessee.”
A similar exclusion exists if a Plaintiff seeks to access their own Underinsured Motorist Protection coverage. Section 148(4)(c) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation lets ICBC off the hook in circumstances where the Plaintiff ” is an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the insured knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner.”
In finding ICBC was right to deny coverage the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:
 Having canvassed counsel on this line of cases and on the “adult activity” line most recently considered in Nespolon v. Alford (1998) 110 O.A.C. 108, lve. to app. dism’d. S.C.C.A. No. 452, I do not find it necessary to consider them further in this case. Both lines concern the law of negligence as applied to young persons – but this is not the context before us. As I read s. 91, this case is concerned only with whether a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s place ought to have known Ms. Reeves was driving without the owner’s consent. In my opinion, a reasonable person would (as the trial judge here acknowledged) have known this; and even if one took into account the plaintiff’s age and experience, the test would also be met. As Mr. Brown submits, the plaintiff, age 17, had a driver’s license and was aware Ms. Reeves was too young to be licensed and that the owner’s permission was needed to drive the Camaro.
 The trial judge reasoned that while it would not be reasonable for an adult to assume that Luke “was able to give [the girls] Steven’s permission when he directed them to take the car”, it had been reasonable for an “incredibly young” 17-year-old girl to have believed he would. With respect, it seems to me that the trial judge here erred in applying a largely subjective standard in the face of statutory wording that has long connoted a well-understood objective standard. With respect, a reasonable person “ought to have known”, and indeed would have known, that neither Steven Hammond nor his mother was consenting to the Camaro being driven by an unlicensed 15-year-old. I agree with counsel for ICBC that as a matter of public policy, there is no rationale for holding the plaintiff to a lower standard in relation to her decision to become the passenger of Ms. Reeves.
 In my opinion, if Ms. Schoenhalz did not “know” that the car was being driven without the owner’s consent, she “ought to have known” that this was the case. I would allow the appeal and set aside the order granted by the trial judge in this proceeding.