Drunk teenager injured in stolen car cannot sue garage.

On May 11, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada  ruled that a commercial car garage did not owe a duty of care to a person who was injured in a car he had stolen from the garage.

In Rankin (Rankin’s Garage & Sales) v. J.J., J.J., a teenager, suffered a catastrophic brain injury in a motor vehicle collision. He sued Rankin’s Garage & Sales, among other parties, for negligence because the car that he and another teenager stole from the garage had been left unlocked with the keys in the ashtray.

At trial, the jury found multiple parties were found liable for J.J.’s injuries, which occurred after his drunk friend C.C., who was driving the car, crashed it on the highway. The jury found that Rankin’s Garage, C.C., C.C.’s mother, who gave beer to the boys, and J.J. were all liable for the injuries. Rankin’s Garage & Sales appealed the decision, and the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s finding that Rankin owed a duty of care to J.J., dismissing the appeal.

A majority of the Supreme Court disagreed with the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling. The majority held that “(a)side from evidence that could establish a risk of theft in general, there was nothing else to connect the risk of theft of the car to the risk of someone being physically injured. For example, Rankin’s Garage had been in operation for many years and no evidence was presented to suggest that there was ever a risk of theft by minors at any point in its history.”