30 Sep Taxi Passenger Should Have Used Seatbelt

The Plaintiff in the case of Spence v. Yellow Cab Company Ltd., 2019 BCSC 1540, was sitting in the backseat of a taxi when the taxi was involved in a collision.  The evidence established that the Plaintiff was not wearing his seatbelt at the time.

The force of the accident threw the Plaintiff forward suddenly and then back.  He struck the back of the seat in front of him with his shoulder and neck, and when he was thrown back towards his seat the right side of his lower back struck a hard object.

The Defendants admitted liability but took issue with the damages claimed. They argued that the Plaintiff was contributorily negligent in failing to wear a seatbelt, even though a seatbelt was available to him. They argued the Plaintiff should be found 25% contributorily negligent for his injuries because, had he been wearing a seatbelt, his injuries would have been prevented or their severity reduced.

At trial the Defendants had to prove:

1) the Plaintiff failed to wear a seatbelt: The Plaintiff admitted this;

2) the seatbelt was available and in working order: The judge accepted the taxi driver’s evidence that he regularly checked his taxi cab to ensure the seatbelts were in good working order. The judge was satisfied that the seatbelt was operating properly; and

3) the Plaintiff’s injuries would have been prevented or lessened had he been wearing a seatbelt: Common sense dictated that the Plaintiff would likely not have hit the seat in front of him nor the seat behind him as hard, or at all, had he been restrained by the seatbelt available to him. The judge was satisfied that the Plaintiff’s injuries would have been reduced or prevented if he had been wearing a seatbelt.

The judge was of the view that the Plaintiff was 25% contributorily negligent and that his damages should be reduced accordingly.  As a result, his award of $50,000 for non-pecuniary damages was reduced to $37,500.