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Car Thief Wins Lawsuit Against Dealership

J.J. v. C.C., 2016 ONCA 718.

15-year-old J.J. and his teenaged friends spent a summer night drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. Around 11:00 pm, J.J. and his friend, C.C., decided to walk around town and steal items from unlocked cars. They ended up at Rankin’s Garage, a car dealership which also services and sells cars and trucks. There, the boys found an unlocked Toyota Camry with keys sitting in the ashtray. J.J. and C.C. stole the car and took it for a joyride. C.C. drove and J.J. sat in the passenger seat. Ultimately, C.C. crashed the car and J.J. suffered a catastrophic brain injury. C.C. pled guilty to several crimes, and the Crown did not charge J.J.

J.J.’s litigation guardian sued C.C., Rankin’s Garage as owner of the stolen car, and a parent who had provided the boys with alcohol. At trial, the jury ruled that all parties acted negligently and apportioned liability as follows: Rankin’s Garage = 37%; parent = 30%; C.C. = 23% and J.J. = 10%. The trial judge instructed the jury that Rankin’s Garage owed J.J. a duty of care because those entrusted with motor vehicles must assure themselves that the youth in their community cannot take possession of such dangerous objects.

Rankin’s Garage appealed. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Rankin’s Garage had a practice of leaving cars unlocked with keys in them. This provided an inviting target for teenagers and inebriated persons and it was reasonably foreseeable that injuries could result.

You can read J.J. v. C.C., 2016 ONCA 718, in its entirety here.

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