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Garage found partly liable in brain injury of teen who stole car

A garage in the village of Paisley in Bruce County, Ontario, is partially liable for the brain injury suffered by a 15-year-old boy who was involved in a car crash in a vehicle that he and another teen stole from the garage. That was the recent ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The appeals court upheld a jury verdict that determined that Rankin's Garage & Sales owed a duty of care to the young man, who suffered a catastrophic brain injury in the 2006 crash. The garage owner maintained that it was unreasonable to ask him to assume responsibility for the actions of a car thief who was riding with an intoxicated, unlicensed driver. However, the panel of three justices determined that the garage failed to take appropriate steps to prevent the vehicle from being stolen.

The justice who wrote the opinion said, "There was no evidence of any security measures designed to keep people off the property when the business was not open. Cars were left unlocked with the keys in them. The risk of theft was clear."

He also noted that the unlocked cars provided "an inviting target for theft and joyriding, especially by minors." Witnesses testified that the garage had a habit of leaving the vehicles in its possession unlocked.

The justice acknowledged that "the notion that an innocent party could owe a duty of care to someone who steals from him seems extravagant." However, he noted in the ruling that "matters are not so simple."

The teen, who was a passenger in the car, also sued the mother of the 16-year-old who was driving the vehicle for negligence because she reportedly had supplied her son with beer. The older teen, who had never driven previously, reportedly also smoked marijuana and drank vodka prior to the crash. He pleaded guilty to theft, possession of stolen property and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. A DUI charge was dropped.

To determine the amount of damages sought, his lawyer said they will "need to obtain expert evidence as to the cost of the plaintiff's medical and rehabilitation needs." The young man was not able to testify due to his brain injury.

Even when victims have some culpability for their injuries, that doesn't necessarily prevent them from seeking compensation. An experienced Ontario personal injury lawyer can provide advice and guidance.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator, "Garage liable in part for teen's "catastrophic brain injury"," Gordon Paul, Oct. 12, 2016

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