ONCA finds owner’s liability based on possession and in a rare move overruled its previous decision
On August 10, 2015, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in Fernandes v. Araujo confirming a motor vehicle owner’s liability under the Highway Traffic Act for its driver’s negligence is triggered solely based on the owner’s consent to possession and not the manner in which the vehicle was being operated.
Stacey L. Stevens and L. Craig Brown successfully argued this issue before the Court of Appeal’s five member panel on June 18, 2015. In this instance, Ms. Fernandes was a passenger on an ATV which was involved in a single vehicle collision on a public highway. Following the collision, the ATV owner took the position that while he consented to the operation of his ATV on his farm, he did not consent to it being driven on a highway. The owner’s insurer, Allstate, brought a motion for summary judgment in an attempt to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claims against the owner on the basis that he was not vicariously liable for the driver’s negligent operation of his ATV. Stacey L. Stevens defeated this motion. Allstate appealled.
As a result of Stacey and Craig’s efforts, the Court of Appeal overturned one of its previous decisions eliminating a long-standing conflict in this area of the law and preserving the rights of innocent accident victims to look to a motor vehicle owner for compensation for their injuries.