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Taxi Driver Negligent For Failing To Secure Seatbelt on Wheelchair Seated Passenger

Reasons for judgement were published last month addressing a key liability question – is a driver of a taxi negligent for not securing a seatbelt on an adult passenger who is in a wheelchair?  The answer was yes.

In the recent case (Stillwell v. Richmond Cabs Ltd.) the Plaintiff was injured while being transported in a taxi.   The Defendant driver helped load the Plaintiff in his taxi and “did not affix the wheelchair seatbelt that would have secured Ms. Stillwell’s body in place.“.  The court found that due to her physical limitations the Plaintiff  “would not have been able to secure the wheelchair seatbelt by herself due to its positioning in the Taxi.

The driver was mildly exceeding the speed limit and following a vehicle before him a bit closely.  Raccoons ran onto the road.  The vehicles stopped suddenly.  No collision occurred.  But the Plaintiff was thrown from her wheelchair suffering serious injuries.

The Defendant denied liability.  However the Court found the driver was negligent both for failing to affix the seatbelt on his passenger and for following the front vehicle too closely which contributed to the sudden breaking.

In finding the defendant negligent the court provided the following reasons:

[58]      Adult persons in wheelchairs are in a different position than children, in that their inability to secure the required occupant seatbelt in a wheelchair taxi does not depend on their maturity but, in most cases, on their physical inability to do so. The diagrams in evidence of the location and affixation of the required wheelchair seatbelt, which must be secured onto the floor of the Taxi behind the wheelchair, convince me that only the most agile and flexible of adult persons, whether able-bodied or not, might be able to affix this restraint while sitting in a wheelchair…

[64]      I find that part of Mr. Sohi’s standard of care as a driver of a wheelchair taxi was to know how to safely load and secure Ms. Stillwell’s wheelchair in the Taxi, including securing the 3-point wheelchair seatbelt. He did not do so, and I find that he therefore breached the standard of care owed to Ms. Stillwell to properly secure her and her wheelchair….

[82]      With respect to his knowledge that Ms. Stillwell was not properly restrained, there is no question that Mr. Sohi did not fasten the wheelchair seatbelt, and he must have known that Ms. Stillwell could not and had not done so herself. Whether he believed that she might have done up her postural belt (which she had not) does not assist him.

[83]      I find that Mr. Sohi’s standard of care in transporting Ms. Stillwell required that he drive in such a way so as to avoid situations where he might have to come to an unnecessary abrupt and hard stop. Those situations include driving faster than the speed limit while following too closely. I find that he breached this standard in the circumstances.

[84]      Finally, I note that finding a taxi driver liable for stopping suddenly with an unsecured wheelchair occupant is not without precedent: see Ranta.

bc injury law, Justice Marzari, seatbelt, Stillwell v. Richmond Cabs Ltd, Taxi, Wheelchair