20 May Accepting a Ride With an Intoxicated Driver

If you accept a ride with a driver you know is intoxicated, you can be held partially responsible for any injuries you suffer if the driver has an accident.  In Glanville v. Moberg, 2014 BCSC 1336 (heard at the same time as Grant v. Moberg), a drunk driver struck the Glanville vehicle when he entered the intersection on a red light.  The Plaintiff, Grant, was the Defendant Moberg’s passenger. With respect to the action started by Glanville, the Court found Moberg entirely at fault for the accident.  The Court then went on to consider whether Grant was contributorily negligent for accepting a ride with a drunk driver and for failing to wear his seatbelt properly.

When Grant first got into Moberg’s vehicle, he wore a lap and shoulder style seatbelt.  However, prior to the accident he removed the chest portion of the seatbelt and put it behind him because it bothered his neck.  Grant admitted that he was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident but said that his failure to properly wear his seatbelt did not necessarily contribute to his injuries. The Court agreed with him.

Grant’s most significant injuries were to his face and hip.  The court acknowledged that in some cases an injury would be lessened or prevented if a seatbelt had been worn.  However, in this case there was no such evidence.  It was possible Grant would have sustained the injuries to his face from the side of the car even if he had been wearing his seatbelt properly.

The second question the Court considered was whether Grant was contributorily negligent for accepting a ride with a drunk driver.  Grant’s position was that he did not know Moberg was impaired and it had not been established that the accident was caused by Moberg’s impairment. The Court did not agree with Grant.  The Court held that Grant knew or ought to have known that Moberg was impaired when he got into Moberg’s car after spending the afternoon drinking with him.

The evidence showed that Moberg was very drunk and starting to black out even before he met up with Grant. They then spent the afternoon drinking.  The Court had no difficulty in concluding, on the basis of common sense, that Moberg was displaying obvious signs of intoxication by the time Grant got into his car just prior to the accident.

Grant acknowledged that he could have missed the signs that Moberg was drunk because he himself was drunk. The Court held that if Grant failed to appreciate Moberg’s intoxicated state, it was because he voluntarily placed himself in a position where he had a reduced capacity to appropriately judge the situation.

The Court found that Grant was aware or ought to have been aware that Moberg’s ability to drive was impaired by alcohol. Grant’s judgment may have been clouded by his own alcohol consumption at the crucial moment when he agreed to ride with Moberg, but there was no basis in the evidence to see him as anything but a “voluntary” passenger in Moberg’s car.  Grant was found 30% contributorily negligent for accepting a ride with an obviously impaired driver.