What is the Duty of a Driver to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle?

 

When travelling on a roadway or highway it is inevitable that you will encounter an emergency vehicle.  What are your obligations on the road in relation to this emergency vehicle?  Section177 of the British Columbia Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) states:

 

On the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle giving an audible signal by a bell, siren or exhaust whistle, and showing a visible flashing red light, except when otherwise directed by a peace officer, a driver must yield the right of way, and immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the nearest edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and stop and remain in that position until the emergency vehicle has passed.

 

In short, section 177 states that if the emergency vehicle is giving an audible signal and showing a visible signal there is an obligation on drivers of the road to yield to the emergency vehicle.  However, as stated in the BC case of Watkins v Dormuth, 2014 BCSC 543:

 

”The duty imposed by s. 177 of the MVA to yield to an emergency vehicle is not absolute. A driver must have time to perceive and react.”

 

In Watkins, a police officer crashed into another driver while attempting to overtake the vehicle.  The police officer claimed that the other driver should have pulled over by virtue of s.177 of the MVA.  The court placed 100% of the blame on the police officer as the police car was behind her for only a short period of time. The driver of the police car did not show that this time was long enough such that a reasonably alert driver would have perceived the lights and sirens of the police car and pulled over.

 

Emergency vehicles do not have free rein in exercising their driving privileges.  They are constrained by the duty to drive with regard for due safety.

 

If you would like legal advice as a result of a car accident, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 or toll free: 1-866-753-2202.

Has Someone Failed to Pay You?

The following will outline some basic information for recovering money owed to you under a contract.

The first thing that must be considered is the likelihood of recovering the debt owed.  It is important to remember that just because someone owes you money, it does not mean that they necessarily have the ability to pay you.  It is important to weigh and consider the amount owed to you versus the time and costs of recovery.

The next thing to consider is the limitation period for collecting the debt.  Generally speaking, the limitation period for an action in debt is two years after the claim is discovered.  A claim is discovered when one knew or ought reasonably to have known that injury, loss, or damage had occurred.  If one fails to bring a claim within the limitation period that claim becomes time barred. Note that there is a special rule contained in the Limitation Act as to when a claim on a demand loan is discovered. A demand loan is discovered on the first day there is a failure to perform the obligation after a demand for the performance has been made (s. 14).

Following a determination of the likelihood of recovery and ensuring there is compliance with the limitation period, a demand letter should be sent to the debtor.  This demand letter should outline the name of the creditor, the amount of the debt and the authority of the creditor to collect the debt.  It should also be noted that some contracts provide that a demand has to have been made before any legal action is commenced.

If no payment is received as a result of sending the demand letter it may be advisable to pursue legal action against the debtor.

Before legal action is commenced, one important consideration is which court to sue in.  In BC, there are three different levels of court one can use to recover money owed to them.  The decision as to which court to elect usually comes down to the amount of money the debtor owes.

The three courts are as follows, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”), Small Claims Court and Supreme Court.  The CRT has a monetary cap of $5,000, the Small Claims Court has a monetary cap of $35,000 and there is no cap for Supreme Court.

After court election and assuming you are successful and achieve a judgment against the debtor, the method and availability of executing on that judgment is crucial.  It is possible that you go through the entire legal process and receive nothing because the debtor has no exigible property (property that can be realized on).  This is why it is very important at the initial stage to determine whether or not the debtor has the ability to pay.

The common methods of realizing on a judgment for a debt are through seizing and selling the debtors personal property, registering the judgment against the debtor’s real property or through garnishment (a process by which money owed to the debtor gets paid to you instead).

If you would like legal advice with regard to collecting money owed to you, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 or toll free: 1-866-753-2202.

 

 

The purpose of this blog is to make you aware of a recent change in the law with regard to Wills.

The BC Wills Estates and Succession Act (WESA) permits “Multiple Wills” to be used to deal with the assets of a deceased person located in BC.  The purpose behind creating Multiple Wills is to avoid the costs of applying for Probate of the Will.

Probate of a Will is a court process that confirms the validity of a Will and the Executor’s authority to act under it.  If there are assets under the Will that are controlled by third parties such as the Land Title Office (real estate) or a financial institution (bank accounts), these parties are not usually willing to accept the Executor’s authority based solely on the Will.  They require that the validity of the Will and the Executor’s authority also be confirmed by the Court.  The process of securing that confirmation is called “Probate”.

Applying for Probate can be a cumbersome and often costly procedure.  The Executor must list all of the deceased’s assets that are to be dealt with under the Will.  There is also a tax associated with applying for probate of 1.4% of all assets that have been listed ($14,000 per $1,000,000).

Shares of closely-held private companies do not require the consent of third parties.  The title of the shares is not controlled by a third-party, but rather by the company’s Directors.  The BC Business Corporations Act specifically confirms that these Directors can authorize a transfer of the deceased’s shares based on the Will alone, without requiring a Probate of the Will.  Shareholder loans due to the will-maker also do not require Probate.

It is for this reason that it may be advisable to create Multiple Wills.  One Will shall deal with almost all of your assets (the “General Will”) and another Will can be created that deals exclusively with your private company shares and any shareholder loans that are due to you (the “Restricted Will”).  By having the Multiple Wills, only the assets under the General Will would be subject to Probate which will allow you to avoid significant probate taxes on the value of your private company shares and shareholder loans (as these assets are covered off by the Restricted Will).

If you only have one Will that deals with all of your assets then the 1.4% probate tax would apply to all of the assets under the Will.

A Multiple Will estate plan can save a significant amount of probate taxes and can provide some privacy for company related matters.  If you have significant assets in the form of private company shares or shareholder loans and you wish to save Probate taxes you should consider Multiple Wills.  The savings in Probate taxes should significantly exceed the legal costs associated with preparation of the General Will and Restricted Will.

Do Good Easements Make Good Neighbours?

In Mending Wall, the American poet Robert Frost famously asked: Do good fences make good neighbours? In the poem, two neighbours are walking in tandem on either side of their fence, laboriously re-stacking fallen stones. The narrator questions this customary practice because their lands respectively contain apple and pine tree orchards. In response, the neighbour reiterates the adage: good fences make good neighbours. Here, Frost hints at the complexity of property rights. But, let’s suppose the fence was intruding two meters into the narrator’s property. What then?

Often, properties are subject to easements which—broadly stated—grant the right of use, enjoyment, and/or access to others. There are two general categories of easements: public and private. First, public authorities can acquire by expropriation an easement-like right of access for the maintenance of public services and utilities, what is known as a statutory right of way. Once established, these rights-of-way may limit where you can build permanent structures on your property (e.g. a patio, pool, carport, etc.).  For example, Frost’s narrator may have powerlines over a portion of his property; this could restrict the size of his orchard to ensure the utility company’s access.

Second, easements may be granted privately between property owners. These agreements run with the land, insofar as the right-of-access (or otherwise) is registered against the granting land (the servient tenement). Consequently, the easement will persist even when the initial property owners have sold their lands. The benefiting lands (the dominate tenement) carries the right for each subsequent owner’s or inhabitant’s enjoyment. For example, the narrator’s neighbour may be so content with fence mending because he inherited lands that benefit from an easement; whereas the narrator questions the custom because he has inherited lands that grant this benefit.

There are three elements required for an easement to be valid. First, there must be servient and dominate tenements. Private easements cannot exist in gross (“thin air”). These lands need not be contiguous, but they must be close enough to allow the one to benefit the other. Second, because easements impose a burden on the servient tenement, courts will not enforce one unless it improves the dominate land somehow. Third, an easement must be capable of forming the content of a grant. In other words, easements may only concern property rights, such as access to or use of lands. It cannot grant the right to a spectacular view, for instance. Nor can an easement impose a positive obligation on the servient tenement-holder. In Frost’s Mending Wall these three elements appear to be satisfied. Does that mean the narrator’s neighbour can fence the easement lands? Maybe.

Easements grant a property right, not a type of ownership. As such, they never grant the benefiting landowner exclusive possession of the subject lands. Where sufficient access remains for the servient tenement-holder, a dominant tenement-holder may fence easement property—provided it contributes to the easement’s purpose. In Beyer v. Clarke, for example, the B.C. Supreme Court permitted such a fence because it improved the land’s safety for the dominant-tenement holder and their dog. The easement at issue granted a general right of use and enjoyment. To that end, the dominant tenement-holder constructed an ornate garden. Because the fence contained a gate which allowed garden access to the servient tenement-holder and because the fence contributed to the easement’s general purpose, the court refused to order its removal. From this precedent, the narrator’s neighbour may fence the easement lands, provided it contains a gate and contributes to the easement’s purpose.

How do easements end? First, the tenement-holders may agree to remove the easement from the land titles registry. Second, the benefitting landowner may abandon the easement. This requires more than mere disuse. Rather, it requires an action which clearly demonstrates their intention to abandon the right. They may, for example, fence over their access route. And lastly, the easement’s purpose may be rendered obsolete.  An easement allowing for septic truck access, for instance, may become obsolete when a city installs sewage lines.

As Robert Frost’s Mending Wall suggests, property law is complex. Maintaining good relations with your neighbour often requires more than a fence. If your property is subject to an easement and you are hoping to make changes, call our office for more information about your rights and your property’s restrictions.

“This contract represents the entire agreement between the parties. The contract supersedes all prior negotiations, representations or agreements, either written or oral, including the bidding documents.”

This clause, or something similar to it, is known as an entire agreement clause. It is often included within commercial contracts to limit the parties’ liability to the contract’s four corners. In other words, it prevents one party from asserting that the other breached a contractual promise made but not recorded within the contract. This creates legal certainty by lifting the final contract out of the messiness of negotiations. However, there are several circumstances where entire agreement clauses will not be strictly applied.

Where the parties are sophisticated or where they have legal representation during the contract’s negotiations, an entire agreement clause may be strictly enforced.[1] Where there is an asymmetry of bargaining power between the parties, however, the entire agreement clause must have been brought to the weaker party’s attention prior to the contract’s formation.[2] Following from this reasoning, courts have held that an entire agreement clause within a standard form contract will be given less weight; this is because the parties are less likely to have read and understood the clause’s meaning.[3]

Entire agreement clauses will not necessarily prevent a party from suing for negligent misrepresentation of terms not included within the contract. Between sophisticated parties or parties with legal representation, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that protection from liability for negligent misrepresentation is implicitly included within an entire agreement clause.[4] For unsophisticated or unrepresented parties, the possibility remains open. That is, they may sue the other party for breaching a representation made prior to but excluded from the final written contract. Such lawsuits are especially likely to succeed where that representation induced them to enter the contract.[5]

Finally, entire agreement clauses will not shield parties from liability for acting in bad faith. In the 2014 decision of Bhasin v. Hrynew, the Supreme Court of Canada created a new common law duty of honest performance in contracts.[6] Parties cannot use an entire agreement clause to contract out of this duty. Therefore, fraudulent misrepresentations during a contract’s formation will always remain actionable.

If you’re entering a commercial contract be mindful of the entire agreement clause and its effect on any representations the other party has made to you during the negotiations. For more information please call our office at (250) 753-2202.

 

[1] No. 2002 Taurus Ventures Ltd. v. Intrawest Corp., 2007 BCCA 228; Power Consolidated (China) Pulp Inc. v. British Columbia Resources Investment Corp., [1989] B.C.J. No. 114 (B.C.S.C.).

[2] Zippy Print Enterprises Ltd. v. Pawliuk, [1995] 3 W.W.R. 324.

[3] Turner v. DiDonato, 2009 ONCA 235, at para. 46; Wright v. 2137737 Ontario Inc., 2010 ONSC 2956;

Parkland Industries Ltd. v. Smart Gas and Auto Detailing Ltd., 2013 BCSC 1046.

[4] Bow Valley Husky Ltd. v. St. John Shipbuilding Ltd. [1997] 3 SCR 1210, 1997 CanLII 307 (SCC)

[5] Tilden Rent-A-Car Co. v. Clendenning, 1978 CanLII 1446 (ON CA)

[6] 2014 SCC 71

When non-medical cannabis became legal on October 17, 2018, provincial and municipal governments were handed the responsibility of regulating cannabis retail stores.  British Columbia has one of the most progressive stances of cannabis, but that does not mean that applying for a retail store is easy.  Applications for cannabis retail store licences are time consuming, costly, and extremely detailed.

The precise requirements for applicants will depend on whether they are applying as a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or as an Indigenous Nation.  There is a financial integrity check and a criminal record screening.  These steps are to ensure that the applicants are not connected to organized crime.  Applicants should be prepared to share their past addresses, employment history, corporate associations, financial accounts, and any connections they have with federal producers of cannabis.  Applicants must also prepare floor plans and site plans of the proposed retail store.

A critical step in the process will be getting the approval of the local government or Indigenous nation whose land the store will be on.  Local governments and Indigenous nations can set restrictions for these licences, such as location and hours of operations.  They can even outright ban non-medical cannabis retail stores in their area if they wish.  This process may be a simple application or it could develop into a full community consultation.  For an Indigenous nation that wants to build a store on its own land, this step is rather straightforward.  For everyone else, it will be important to check the relevant bylaws and policies before starting an application.

Finally, the licence application fee is $7,500.00.  This is in addition to the annual retail store licence fee of $1,500.00.  Applicants will also want to consider whether they will need to create a corporation or a partnership, purchase or lease the property, and construct a store that meets the specifications set by the provincial government.

If you have any questions about how to apply for a cannabis retail store licence, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 or toll free: 1-866-753-2202.

Renovictions in BC

In April 2018, Premier John Hogan created a Rental Housing Task Force, comprised of three MLAs: Spencer Chandra Herbert, Adam Olsen, and Rae Leonard. One of their major recommendations regarding the issue of “renovictions” has been adopted by the Provincial government and came into force in May 2018. A renoviction occurs when a tenancy agreement is prematurely ended for renovations or repairs. While this is permitted under 49 of the Residential Tenancy Act, the Task Force’s public consultations suggested that this section was often misunderstood or abused by landlords. For example, cosmetic upgrades and minor renovations to electrical or plumbing systems were often being cited as justifications for evicting tenants. The Task Force claimed that this created housing insecurity for renters. To mitigate this issue, they recommended that agreements should persist where possible. Where health and safety concerns necessitate the tenant’s absence from the property, the Task Force further suggested that they receive a right of first refusal upon the work’s completion. The Province quickly adopted these recommendations, as follows:

  • Landlords must provide 4-months’ notice to end a tenancy for demolition, renovation or repair, or conversion. The tenants have 30 days to dispute this notice at the RTB.
    • Before the notice is filed, the landlord must have all the applicable permits and approvals to renovate.
  • If the landlord ends the tenancy under section 49 (landlord’s use) and they do not:
    • take steps towards accomplishing the stated purpose within a reasonable time;
    • use the property for less than 6 months after the tenancy ends;

they will be required to compensate the tenant for 12 months’ rent; unless an arbitrator finds that extenuating circumstances excuse the landlord of liability.

  • Where major renovations require the tenant to vacate the property, the tenant will have a right of first refusal to re-enter the property under a new tenancy agreement.
    • However, this only applies to tenancies within a residential property with more than five or more rental units.
    • Should the landlord fail to recognize this right by not giving the tenant 45 days’ notice of availability and a new tenancy agreement, they will be required to compensate the tenant 12 months’ rent (again, subject to a valid excuse from extenuating circumstances).

For commercial residential rental companies, these new rules introduce a risk of significant liability when renovating or repairing a building, for each tenant has a potential claim of 12 months’ rent. With five tenants at $1,000 per month, the landlord may be liable for $60,000 for failure to adhere to these rules. As such, we recommend seeking legal advice before issuing notices and swinging hammers.

British Columbia is the First Canadian Province to Introduce Benefit Corporations

 

In May 2019, British Columbia amended its Business Corporations Act (BCA) to allow for the inclusion of “benefit corporations.”[1] This new business entity provides an intermediary position between the existing non-profit and for-profit options. Specifically, it allows new and existing companies to include a benefit provision within their articles of incorporation. This provision alters the corporate executives’ responsibilities by including a non-shareholder interest that must be factored into all major business’ decisions. In this respect, it differs from the traditional corporate structure where the corporation’s executive body is principally tasked with maximizing shareholders’ interests. The amendment was introduced as a private member’s bill by Andrew Weaver, the B.C. Green Party Leader. In his address to the legislature, Mr. Weaver explained that the introduction of benefit corporations would “provide…companies with the legal framework to operate in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way and to pursue public benefits, in addition to pursuing profits.” [2] While British Columbia is the first Canadian province to authorize benefit corporations, this new corporate structure has been widely recognized throughout the United States. In June 2018, 33 States, plus the District of Columbia, had passed similar legislation.[3]

 

What function does the benefit corporation serve? Similar to third-party certification programs which label a company as environmentally sustainable, committed to fair-trade practices, or otherwise, the designation of being a benefit corporation signals to prospective clients, investors, and businesses that a company is committed to a broader social, cultural, or environmental purpose. As Mr. Weaver argues, “by incorporating as benefit companies, businesses would achieve clarity and certainty for their directors and investors about their goals and mandate, thus enabling them to attract capital investment while staying true to their mission as they grow.”[4] That is, the benefit provision can serve to stabilize a company’s activities by ensuring it adheres to broader principles over the long-term. This may assist some companies in attracting new owners, investors, or clients, but simultaneously, it ensures that these new business participants cannot fundamentally alter the company’s foundational purpose. This stability can preserve a company’s brand by ensuring its reputation is not undermined by fundamental changes to its value-based practices, e.g. sourcing materials from certified supply-chains.

How do benefit corporations differ from Canada’s existing Community Contribution Company (C3) designation? The C3 framework is a share-capital corporate structure that incorporates both for- and not-for-profit elements. These companies adhere to market principles related to growth; however, they are subject to restrictions regarding their distribution of assets by dividends or dissolution. Benefit corporations, by contrast, have no such restrictions. Instead, a benefit corporation’s adherence to their beneficial purpose will be monitored by new transparency and accountability requirements that will be assessed against an independent, third-party standard. This structure is commonly observed in existing certification programs such as: Clean Marine B.C., The Forestry Stewardship Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, et cetera.

 

By special resolution, a majority of shareholders may alter a company’s articles of incorporation to become a benefit corporation. This requires the addition of a benefit statement. What is this statement? Under the Act, all participating corporations must include the following statement within its articles:

“This company is a benefit company and, as such, has purposes that include conducting its business in a responsible and sustainable manner and promoting one or more public benefits.”[5]

To clarify, all participating corporations must commit to responsible and sustainable business practices generally. This means that the company will “take into account the well-being of persons affected by the operations of the benefit company, and endeavour to use a fair and proportionate share of available environmental, social, and economic resources and capacities.”[6] Thereafter, companies must select a specific public benefit. Under section 51.991(1) of the amended Act, this benefit can include “artistic, charitable, cultural, economic, educational, environmental, literary, medical, religious, scientific or technological” objectives. However, the benefit must accrue to a class of persons, communities, or organizations other than the shareholders qua shareholders. That is, shareholders may indirectly benefit from an improved community, environment, etcetera, but they cannot be the class of person for whom the benefit is directed. Due to these provisions, benefit corporations cannot amalgamate with regular corporations, unless the amalgamation results in a benefit corporation.[7] Alternatively, a majority of shareholders may discontinue a corporation’s beneficial designation by simply removing the above provisions via a special resolution.

 

 

Once established a benefit corporation’s public commitment is assessed through annual benefit reports. These reports are to be published along with the corporation’s existing financial auditing obligations under the BCA.[8] As mentioned, these reports must be accompanied by and be evaluated against a third-party standard, e.g. a standards-setting body such as the Forestry Stewardship Council.[9] While the company may select this third-party comparator, there are various restrictions on this selection process to ensure the evaluation’s independence. For example, a standard-setting body is not independent whenever “a person who beneficially owns shares of the benefit company, or an associate of such a person, is a member of the governing body of, or controls the operation of, or otherwise controls, the third-party standard-setting body.” In other words, there can be no relationship between the principle company and its third-party comparator when that comparator is a standard-setting body (i.e. a charity or non-profit organization).[10] The report itself must specify what activities the company took to pursue its general and specific benefit provisions and any impediments experienced therein over the previous year.[11] It must be approved by the directors, signed by one or more of them, and published on the corporation’s website.[12]

 

The benefit corporation model could advantage entrepreneurs looking to gain market-share or attract capital investments by espousing a societal benefit. Should they fail to adhere to their self-selected third-party standard, their liability is limited. Under section 51.994(2)(b), stakeholders are barred from pursuing legal action against a company simply because it failed to realizes its espoused benefits. This limitation is supported by section 51.994(2)(a) which excludes persons “whose well-being may be affected by the company’s conduct, or … who [have] an interest in the public benefit specified in the company’s articles.” As for shareholders, their remedies are limited with regards to the company’s benefit provisions. Directors and officers cannot be found to have breached their fiduciary duty under section 142(1) simply because they failed to meet their beneficial duties under section 51.994(1). Should shareholders of a public corporation seek a remedy against their directors or officers for failing to adhere to the company’s third-party standards, they must—in aggregate—represent at least the lesser of 2% of issued shares or their shares must have a fair-market value equal to or greater than $2,000,000. Finally, shareholders are precluded from pursuing a monetary award under section 51.994(5). Rather, they are limited to injunctive relief.

 

In summary, the benefit corporation model introduces a legislative framework for third-party certification programs which enables companies to integrate a beneficial purpose into their articles of incorporation. This may strengthen a company’s brand by solidifying its value-based practices over time and over ownership arrangements. It may also help attract ethically motivated consumers and investors. To ensure compliance, participating companies are required to evaluate and publish their beneficial activities against independent third-party standards. Should directors or officers fail to abide by these standards, shareholders may seek injunctive relief. This limitation on directors’ and officers’ liability ensure that corporations can pursue their benefit provisions without facing onerous financial liabilities from their shareholders. If your company is interested in becoming a benefit corporation, please call our office for further information.

 

[1] Business Corporations Amendment Act, 2018, BC Legislature, Canada.

[2] Weaver, Andrew, “Introducing a bill to enable BC companies to be incorporated as benefit corporations.”

[3] Fitzpatrick, Sarah: “B.C. Considers Benefit Corporations,” Miller Tompson Blog

[4] Supra, note 2.

[5] Ibid., s. 51.992(2)

[6] Iibd., s. 51.991 (1)

[7] Ibid., s. 51.998

[8] Ibid., s. 51.996(1)

[9] Ibid., s. 51.996 (3)

[10] Ibid., s. 51.991(1)

[11] Ibid., s. 51.996 (2)(d)

[12] Ibid., s. 51.996 (4)-(5)

Can parents be held legally responsible for their children’s negligence? Yes. Under B.C.’s Parental Liability Act (PLA), “if a child intentionally takes, damages or destroys property of another person, a parent of the child is liable for the loss of or damage to the property experienced as a result by an owner and by a person legally entitled to possession of the property.”[1] The maximum liability for parents is $10,000. However, a parent can defend themselves from the lawsuit by demonstrating that they were exercising reasonable supervision over the child, and that they made reasonable efforts to prevent or discourage the child from damaging someone’s property.[2] The PLA effectively codifies the existing legal tradition (i.e. the common law). As such, this post will briefly review the common law to clarify the reason for parental liability, and it will explain this reason’s associated standard of supervision as a limiting factor to liability.

At common law, a parent cannot be held liable for damages resulting from their children’s negligent acts (i.e. their tortious conduct). In the 1860 English case of Moon v Towers the court held that “a father is not liable in damages for the torts of his child.” This principle has been applied in numerous B.C. cases.[3] In Hatfield v. Pearson, for example, three teenaged boys stole a car which was damaged in the ensuing police chase. The owner’s claim for damages against the children’s parents failed on the principle set out in Moon v Towers. Similar dismissals have arisen in response to children’s acts of vandalism,[4] arson,[5] and murder.[6] However, parents with unruly children should not take too much comfort in this knowledge, for the rule is not absolute.

Parents have a personal duty to supervise their children.[7] When careless in this duty, a parent can be held liable for any resulting damages. There is a subtle but important difference here. The parent is not vicariously liable for their child’s negligence; rather, they are personally liable for their prior negligence in not properly supervising their child to the acceptable standard of preventing foreseeable harm to others. In the 1994 B.C. Supreme Court Case of Poirier (Guardian of) v. Cholette, for instance, parents were held liable for failing to properly supervise their two adolescent boys while they wrestled on a trampoline with friends, resulting in the breakage of a young girl’s arm. As the court wrote: “had the defendants provided proper supervision, the prohibited circumstances of three or four children indulging in horseplay and wrestling on the trampoline would not have occurred.   The infant plaintiff would, on a balance of probabilities, not have fallen.”[8] Of course, this foreseeability of harm changes with the child’s age. As the child nears the age of majority (18 years old) and expectations regarding their comportment with social standards increase, the parents’ duty to supervise will correspondingly decrease.[9]

If the child demonstrates a propensity for the negligent behavior that eventually resulted in damage, the parents’ duty to supervise is increased. In the B.C. case of M.I.M. v. T.H., for example, a foster parent was found to have fulfilled such an elevated standard arising from his knowledge regarding his two foster children’s proclivity for stealing. But, their eventual arson attack was unforeseen, and therefore, the foster parent could not be held liable.[10] In other words, the supervision standard is limited to what a reasonably prudent parent would do in similar circumstances.

An “error in judgment” will not amount to negligent supervision. That is, the reasonable parent standard is broad, insofar as any circumstance will afford various courses of reasonable action. Even when one of those actions has an unfortunate outcome, its mere selection will not amount to negligence. In Arnold v. Teno, for example, the Supreme Court of Canada found that a mother allowing her children to cross a residential street to purchase items from an ice cream truck was within the community standard, even though that choice later resulted in one of the children being struck by a vehicle. While an instance of poor judgment, the decision did not amount to a failure to supervise.

Taken together, parents cannot be vicariously liable for their children’s negligent acts. Yet, they may be liable for failing to supervise their children to the appropriate community or circumstantial standards. The PLA’s codification of these common law principles bridges the distinction between vicarious and parental liability. It simply makes parents liable for their children’s negligence. However, the distinction implicitly persists with the statute’s supervision defence. Also, it should be noted that the PLA maintains a $10,000 liability limit that does not exist at common law. That said, other statutes also override the Moon v. Towers principle and impose parental liability in certain circumstances. Section 10 of B.C.’s School Act, for example, imposes liability on parents for any damage their children cause to school property.[11] There, the statue sets no upper limit on parental liability.

[1] Parental Liability Act, Part 2, s. 3

[2] Ibid., ss. 9 & 10

[3] Moon v. Towers (1860), 8 C.B.N.S. 611, 141 E.R. 1306; also see, The Law Reform Commission of Ireland, Report On The Liability In Tort Of Minors And The Liability Of Parents For Damage Caused By Minors Ireland, <https://www.lawreform.ie/_fileupload/Reports/rDamagecausedbyMinors.htm>

[4] M.I.M. v. T.H., [1991] 5 WWR 699, 82 DLR (4th) 609, 57 BCLR (2d) 1.

[5] Smith v. British Columbia, 1997 CanLII 3267 (BC SC),

[6] D.L. et al. v. C.P. et al., 2019 MBQB 42

[7] Arnold v. Teno, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 287; Hatfield v. Pearson (1956), 6 D.L.R. (2d) 593 (B.C.C.A.)

[8] Poirier (Guardian of) v. Cholette, 1994 CanLII 1182 (BC SC)

[9] Lelarge v. Blackney, (1978) 92 D.L.R. (3d), 440 (N.B.C.A.) at pp. 446-7.

[10] M.I.M. v. T.H., 1991 CanLII 5722 (BC CA), at para 138.

[11] School Act, RSBC 1996, c 412, s 10; also see School District No. 43 (Coquitlam) v. T.W.D., 1999 BCCA 95

In the recent case of Trudeau v Turpin, 2019 BCSC 150, the Supreme Court of British Columbia considered the concept of undue influence and the application of section 52 of the British Columbia Wills, Estates and Succession Act. “Undue influence” refers to a situation where a will-maker has been improperly influenced such that the Will does not reflect the will-maker’s genuine intention. Section 52 of WESA considers a situation where another person commences an action claiming that a Will results from the undue influence of another person. If the claim suggests that a person:

 

  • was in a position with respect to the deceased person where there was the potential for dependence or domination; and
  • that the person used that position to improperly influence the will-maker.

 

the party alleging undue influence must only prove that the person allegedly exerting undue influence was in a position where the potential for dependence or domination of the will-maker was present. Once this is established, the party seeking to defend the Will must prove that the Will was not created as a result of the undue influence of that person.

 

 

The Facts of the Case

 

In this case, the will-maker was particularly close with one of her four daughters and in her Will left:

 

  • 60% of her estate to that daughter;
  • 30% to another daughter; and
  • 5% each to the last two daughters.

 

The other daughters argued that by virtue of the strength of the relationship between their mother and the favoured daughter and the fact that the mother was dependent on her, the Will was a product of undue influence. The Court considered section 52 of WESA and ultimately found that the other daughters failed to establish that the favoured daughter was in a position where the potential for dependence or domination was present. The Court further stated that, regardless of section 52 of WESA, the evidence did not suggest that the favoured daughter exerted any undue influence.

 

In particular, the Court noted that:

 

  • the favoured daughter never exhibited aggressive or suggestive behaviour;
  • the will-maker had a journal that had confirmed her wishes as early as 1996 (and continued to express a desire to change her Will to reflect these wishes);
  • there was evidence that the will-maker had a dominating personality with her children, including the favoured daughter;
  • the daughter’s demeanor suggested she was not capable of exerting undue influence;
  • when her mother made an earlier Will, the favoured daughter convinced her mother to distribute her estate equally between her children;
  • the will-maker met privately with her lawyer; and
  • the experienced lawyer had no concerns that there was any undue influence present when the will-maker made the Will.