Taking a Taxi? Buckle up!

Published on October 30, 2018

In the recent case of Stewart v. The Corporation of the Township of Douro-Drummer, 2018 ONSC 4009 (CanLII), it was established that there is no duty of care on a taxi driver to ensure a drunk passenger is wearing a seatbelt.

In this judge-alone trial, the only issue to be determined was whether a taxi driver had any responsibility for the plaintiff''s injuries as a result of the plaintiff's failure to wear a seatbelt.  The insurer, Novex, argued that the taxi driver had a positive duty to ensure the intoxicated passenger was wearing a seatbelt.

By way of brief background, the plaintiff was the front-seat passenger of a taxi.  He was intoxicated, as were the other passengers he was traveling with.  The taxi driver was aware the passengers were intoxicated.  He did not take steps to ensure any of the passengers were wearing their seatbelts.  During the trip, the plaintiff was in and out of consciousness.  At one point, the taxi was traveling through an intersection with the right of way when another vehicle drive through a stop sign, hitting the taxi.  The taxi driver was not at fault for the collision.

The defendant insurer argued that the taxi driver owed a duty of care to the plaintiff because it was apparent that he was intoxicated and was, therefore, a vulnerable individual who could not care for himself.  The trial judge rejected the insurer's argument, finding that such duty of care did not presently exist in Canadian law and, further, that the insurer was suggesting a positive duty, which the Court rejected at paragraph 113 of its decision:

Imposing a positive duty to ensure adult intoxicated passengers are and remain buckled in a taxi cab, in light of the existing legal responsibilities for all adults to buckle their seatbelts in vehicles and the voluntary assumption of risk by the adult becoming intoxicated, is an unnecessary and unprincipled extension of the scope of any duty which a taxi driver owes to adult intoxicated passengers.

The Court found that the taxi driver did not assume responsibility for whether an adult passenger wore a seatbelt simply by accepting the fare.  The judge also noted that an adult passenger has the right to buckle or not buckle his seatbelt and a taxi driver cannot force or otherwise ensure the passenger is wearing his seatbelt.

Thus, the bottom line is that YOU are responsible for your own safety and your own seatbelt.  Make sure you buckle up at all times!